Center for National and International Studies



“How can a head of state, justify the unjust arrests of his most decent citizens by the injustices that have occurred elsewhere in the world?”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

Elbayi Karimli, a young member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), wrote “Stalin” on the statue of former president Heydar Aliyev. Consequently, he was arrested, subjected to severe torture, falsely accused of narcotics possession, and imprisoned for six years. Party Chairman Ali Karimli stated that while they do not condone youth’s actions of writing on statues, it is unjust to sentence a young individual to years in prison.”Karimli: We believe that the fight should not be against the statues but rather against the single-person, single-family system established by Heydar Aliyev, and sending the single-person rule to the archives of history is essential. Then, other problems created by authoritarianism will also be solved. The harsh punishment inflicted on the youth who inscribed “Stalin” on Heydar Aliyev‘s statue underscores the regime’s brutality, fear, and the illogicality of the country’s leadership. Isn’t Putin your ally, your closest confidant? Aren’t you emulating Putin‘s trajectory? After all, Putin also extols Stalin as a great statesman. Those who align themselves with Putin, why do they perceive the word “Stalin” as an insult? Elbayi Karimli is a political prisoner. We call for his release and that of all political detainees.”

The detention period of Tofig Yagublu, an active member of the Musavat Party and the National Council of Democratic Forces, has been prolonged by an additional two months during the investigative phase. Tofig Yagublu asserted that despite not committing any offense, he has been arbitrarily detained for the fourth time due to political directives. “I possess as much legitimacy as the judge and investigator for these unfounded accusations. Shamefully, for the fourth time, orders arrive, and I am detained unlawfully,” expressed Tofig Yagublu. His lawyer, Nemet Karimli, also emphasized that accusing Tofig Yagublu of baseless charges is unjust and absurd, and the accusations lack substance as Yagublu is being held without any evidence. According to the lawyer, his client has been in custody for four months without undergoing any interrogation. Despite objections from the defense, the judge has extended Tofig Yagublu‘s detention period until June 14 for the investigative phase.

The court session for APFP member Elnur Hasanov concluded without reaching an agreement. Today, a preparatory hearing took place at the Baku Serious Crimes Court for Hasanov’s case. Lawyer Nemet Karimli made requests for his client to sit alongside him and for his detention to be replaced with house arrest, but both requests were denied. The next court hearing is scheduled for April 19. Meanwhile, Sahib Mammadzade, the head of the APFP Dashkasan branch, is being prevented from meeting with his family due to the intervention of an investigator named Araz from the Goygol police department.

Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, who has been in detention for a year and four months, regrets his decision to return to Azerbaijan, attributing it to his belief in President Ilham Aliyev‘s summons. In his court hearing, Hajiyev said that although he had intended to settle in Prague in 2015, Azerbaijani officials, acting on behalf of the country’s leader, persuaded him to come back to Baku. Hajiyev: “I had decided to start my career in Prague and to live there. Ilham Aliyev sent word through officials, summoning me to return to Baku. They maintained contact with me from the administration. Upon returning, they requested my assistance in youth politics. I believed and returned to Baku. My only fault is that I agreed to it. After returning, I established certain initiatives related to education and students in Azerbaijan. After a while, they began to pressure me. If I hadn’t returned to the country, none of this would have happened,” – Bakhtiyar Hajiyev spoke at the court. The case of the activist is being heard in the Baku Serious Crimes Court under the chairmanship of Judge Ali Mammadov. During the court session held on April 5, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev requested that the hearings regarding his case be held more frequently and that the process be concluded in a short period. “It has been 16 months of investigation, and I have been in court for five months. The process cannot go on indefinitely. I do not want to be a victim of this system,” – the public activist stated.

On April 4, the Baku Serious Crimes Court conducted a preparatory session for activist Rail Abbasov’s case. Attorney Elchin Sadigov advocated for replacing Abbasov’s detention with house arrest, attributing his arrest to his defense of political prisoner Bakhtiyar Hajiyev. Sadigov also urged for an inquiry to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to check for any criminal records related to the victims and witnesses. However, the state prosecutor opposed the substitution of detention with house arrest and left the other request unaddressed. Despite the affected party in the case, Asgar Haziyev’s request for the requested measures advocated by Sadigov, the court refused to replace detention with house arrest and left the other request unattended. The next hearing is set for April 18.

In the detention facility, journalist Mushfig Jabbar is only permitted limited visits. “For the third time, Musfiq Jabbar can only meet his family behind glass for a mere 10 minutes. This regulation specifically applies to Musfiq Jabbar among those involved in the ‘Toplum TV case’,” journalist Nijat Amiraslanov reported. Despite objections from his family, this policy remains unchanged. “Mushfig’s family, like ours, should have the opportunity to meet for at least 30-40 minutes”, said Amiraslanov.

The press service of the President of Azerbaijan responded to a question from Azertaj on April 3 regarding the telephone conversation between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Ilham Aliyev. The press service confirmed that during the telephone conversation between the two parties, various issues, including human rights issues, were discussed: “President Ilham Aliyev stated that attempts to interfere in Azerbaijan’s internal affairs under the pretext of human rights issues are completely unacceptable. We do not accept the hypocritical statements of some Western countries based on double standards on this issue. In this regard, the President reminded Secretary Blinken of the imprisonment of opposition representatives in Armenia, including cases of death during imprisonment, and the violations of human rights. He noted that the silence of Western countries in this context is unacceptable and emphasized that such incidents are clear examples of double standards. According to the statement of the press service, “President Ilham Aliyev also raised the issue of the prolonged physical and psychological torture endured by the renowned journalist Julian Assange due to his journalistic activities during the telephone conversation.” It was also added that the issue of human rights should be viewed not only locally but also in a global context, noted the press service.

Chairperson of the APFP, Ali Karimli, commented on the statement by the press service of the President of Azerbaijan, saying that it is completely nonsense to arrest Azerbaijani citizens just because there are jailed journalists in other parts of the world. Karimli: “It seems that the Aliyev regime was disturbed by the statement of the US State Department and immediately arranged and spread an interview with the President through Azertaj. In the interview, the President’s press service admitted that, indeed, the situation of human rights in Azerbaijan was discussed during the phone conversation. It is evident from the statement of the press service that when Blinken called for the release of “unjustly detained individuals,” Ilham Aliyev responded that it was a matter of domestic affairs.  How can a head of state, justify the unjust arrests of his most decent citizens by the injustices that have occurred elsewhere in the world? In general, do you see any logic in this statement, which has been disseminated under the name of the President’s press service and reflects the regime’s position?”

April 9, 2024