Center for National and International Studies



“Azerbaijan is an increasingly repressive state with a widely-recognised corruption problem…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

The Khatai District Court has ruled to extend the detention of three journalists involved in the “AbzasMedia case.” Bail has been denied for Ulvi Hasanli, the director of “AbzasMedia,” Sevinj Vagifgizi, the chief editor, and Imran Aliyev, the head of the meclis.info platform, regarding their release. Ulvi Hasanli has also filed a request to see his infant child.

Amidst the recent wave of arrests targeting journalists and civil society activists in Azerbaijan, restrictions have been imposed on the departure of public figures and media representatives from the country. Narmin Hasanova, the sister of Ulvi Hasanli, the director of the independent online publication “Abzas Media,” is among those affected by this travel ban. “All of this casts doubt on my future. All my plans have been disrupted. Even if they lift the ban today and allow me to return home, I won’t be able to reclaim the stability I’ve built over the years. I’ve already lost certain things. I will have to start everything from scratch,” expressed Hasanova.

There are numerous instances in Azerbaijan where individuals identified by human rights defenders as “political prisoners” have not been provided with proper medical treatment despite suffering from serious illnesses while in detention. It is reported that the health of Alasgar Mammadli, the founder of the independent internet television station “Toplum TV,” has deteriorated. His wife, Gunay Mammadli, has provided information on this matter. She expressed concern about her husband’s declining health, evident in his voice: “I spoke with Alasgar today, and there’s a noticeable change in his tone. It’s likely due to swelling in the neck area, resembling goiter. There have been increases in measurements, impacting his vocal cords as well. For three weeks now, there has been no response from the tests conducted,” said Gunay Mammadli. On April 26, Alasgar Mammadli underwent examination at the Ministry of Internal Affairs Hospital and blood tests were taken. He was then returned to the detention center. Neither Mammadli nor his lawyer has been provided with information regarding the results of the examinations.

Jailed activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev reflected on the unlawful treatment he faced. “Officials forcibly seized my documents and forcefully transported me to court. This isn’t the first time—it’s become a pattern: whenever my detention is prolonged or when my bail release documents are under review, they confiscate my papers as I’m escorted to court. It appears these unlawful actions are orchestrated by the Penitentiary Service leadership or at the direction of the new Minister of Justice,” said Hajiyev.

As a joint demonstration of international solidarity, 240 organizations, scholars, and human rights defenders have published an open letter demanding the complete withdrawal of accusations against Gubad Ibadoghlu, the chairman of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Prosperity Party, who was released on bail recently. The letter states that Dr. Ibadoghlu is a renowned economist, a resident of the United Kingdom, and an academic collaborating with the London School of Economics (LSE). “The Azerbaijani government detained him on July 23, 2023, on baseless accusations of embezzlement and terrorism, and he remained in investigative detention for nine months until his release on bail on April 22, 2024. His trial may begin on May 20,” the document notes. ” “The UNCAC Coalition and 239 additional signatories emphatically demand the immediate and unconditional release of our friend and colleague, Gubad Ibadoghlu”, said Mathias Huter, Managing Director of the UNCAC Coalition.

On May 10, the case of Famil Khalilov, a critic of the government and a first-degree disabled individual, regarding his detention was reviewed. As reported by “Abzas Media,” the Baku Court of Appeal did not uphold the complaint. The initial court’s decision stands, and Khalilov remains in custody. “Prison personnel struggled to bring Khalilov to court due to his limited mobility. His condition worsened during the proceedings. We will seek bail for him to be placed under house arrest. He cannot manage without external assistance,” stated lawyer Bahruz Bayramov to “Turan.” Famil Khalilov, who sought political asylum in Sweden last year, was repatriated this year and detained on May 2. He is charged under Article 234.4.3 of the Criminal Code (illegal trafficking of a large quantity of narcotics), and a pretrial detention measure has been imposed. According to his relatives, Famil Khalilov was detained for criticizing the Azerbaijani government on social media. If convicted, Khalilov faces a sentence ranging from 5 to 12 years of imprisonment.

Baku City Executive Authority yet again rejected the request of the National Council of Democratic Forces to hold a rally in Baku. The refusal was justified on the grounds that the areas in front of the May 28 and Narimanov metro stations are located in parts of the city with intensive traffic, and holding meetings in these areas would cause traffic jams and violate citizens’ rights to free movement. The Chairperson of the National Council of Democratic Forces, Jamil Hasanli, commented on the decision, saying that the regime intends to create a closed country: “They want to create a closed country. They don’t want problems to be voiced, they want the people to express their protest against the policies being pursued.”

For years, opposition parties have been denied permission to hold rallies in the center of Baku. Instead, the government traditionally offers remote locations far from the city center for the National Council of Democratic Forces, which also includes the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party. The National Council was planning to hold a rallies in the city center on May 5 and May 12, but both requests were denied.  Lawyer Samad Rahimli says that using the argument of disrupting citizens’ rest rights to justify the refusal of rallies is absurd.

Governance and Corruption

A recent investigation, jointly conducted by the OCCRP, Mikroskop Media (Azerbaijan), iFact (Georgia), and analyzed by Transparency International UK, has unveiled £75.6 million worth of UK properties allegedly owned by Beylar Eyyubov, the Azerbaijani security chief, raising concerns about unexplained wealth.

Eyyubov, who has served as the head of security for the President of Azerbaijan for three decades, spanning the tenures of both Ilham Aliyev and his father Heydar Aliyev, has no discernible sources of substantial family wealth. However, corporate and land registry records indicate that the Eyyubov family has amassed an expensive property portfolio in the UK. This includes three mansions in Hampstead situated on the same street, in close proximity to a residence previously reported by the OCCRP in 2015 as belonging to President Aliyev‘s family.

These revelations stem from newly disclosed information available on the Register of Overseas Entities, which was enacted into law in 2022 following extensive advocacy efforts by Transparency International UK, alongside other NGOs and parliamentarians.

The significant gap between the cost of these properties and the known income sources of the Eyyubov family raises serious questions about the origin of the funds used to acquire these assets. Three mansions secretly owned by Eyyubov’s wife, Zohre Sultanova, and daughter, Elvira Eyyubova, are located in prestigious parts of North London. Elvira also owns two penthouses close to the city center and a luxury apartment. Another property owned by her is in Canterbury, and another house is situated in a coastal town in Dorset.

The family acquired these assets in England through offshore companies between 2007 and 2018. Eyyubov’s wife currently holds stakes in two active businesses: a renowned café in London and a high-end hotel in the resort city of Batumi, Georgia.

In response to this investigation, Steve Goodrich Head of Research and Investigations, Transparency International UK said: “Azerbaijan is an increasingly repressive state with a widely-recognised corruption problem. This is one of a series of investigations by journalists exposing vast amounts of UK assets held by the Azerbaijani elite, which have been bought with wealth of questionable provenance. Given the vast discrepancy between the Eyyubov’s known sources of income and the apparent value of their property portfolio, there are strong grounds for law enforcement to investigate whether these houses were acquired with the proceeds of crime.”

May 14, 2024