Center for National and International Studies
“The most urgent problem facing the nation at the moment is ensuring the freedom of assembly...”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
After nine months of trial, the Baku Serious Crimes Court has finally made a decision on the case of Asgar Aghazadeh, who was accused of sexual harassment against activist Sanay Yaghmur (Gahramanli). On October 12, according to the verdict presided over by Judge Novruz Karimov, Aghazadeh was sentenced to five years in prison. Speaking his last words before the court, Aghazadeh said that there was no evidence to confirm the accusation against him. The representative of the victim, Zumrüd Yagmur, noted that the imprisonment term is much shorter than the law requires, and they will appeal the decision.
The human rights defender Elchin Mammad who has been in prison since March 2020, addressed the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Sabina Aliyeva. Mammad’s appeal reads: “My appeal against the decision of the local court on my conditional early release from prison was not considered. It’s been two years and seven months that I’ve been in prison for no reason. With this, my fundamental rights are violated, and my right to freedom is violated. My family’s appeals were not considered either. No one from your office has ever attended the court hearings. All this harms the international reputation of our country. Not being interested in releasing the human rights defender at such a sensitive moment is also contrary to the humanitarian policy of the President.” Speaking about the reasons for the arrest of the human rights defender, his lawyer said that Mammad is working for the protection of human rights, and the human rights organization he leads compiles reports on the state of human rights violations in the country and publishes them on his website, and criticizes the government’s activities as a journalist. Mammad was arrested in March 2020 and sentenced to 4 years in prison on October 17, 2020, by the Sumgayit City Court on charges of theft and illegal possession of ammunition. Amnesty International, PEN, FIACAT, and other international human rights organizations condemned the arrest of Elchin Mammad. Local human rights activists recognize him as a political prisoner.
Activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev listed the property damage caused by the officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Hajiyev’s Facebook post reads: “Here are the blessings given to me by our dear minister Eyvazov: In March, the window of my car was broken by the police. I had to buy a second-hand window which is in a different color. I send my best wishes every time I see it. General Alekbarov was told about this, and he responded that “Bakhtiyar Hajiyev has a lot of money, he will fix it himself.” The police officers took money from my wallet. I complained about it but in vain. A video recorder was taken from my car. The screen of my previous phone was broken. I used it for a long time with a broken screen. When my old phone became unusable, I replaced it with a new one. When “bandits” kidnapped me in August, they smashed my phone on the ground. Now, some parts of the screen are not working, which is annoying. Whenever I get angry, I remember the ministry with the nicest words for its wonderful deeds. In other countries, the ministers serve the citizens, but ours steal the belonging of the citizens, threaten them, and even cause nerve-wracking property damage.”
Ismayil Gahramanov, suspected of theft, was tortured in police station number 36. Although the Khatai District Court found Gahramanov not guilty and acquitted him on the evening of October 10, the police officers forcibly arrested him in front of the court building and took him back to the police station of Khatai District. Gahramanov photos shared on social media show clear signs of torture. Chairperson of APFP Ali Karimli reacted to Gahramaov’s case, saying that the public should not remain indifferent to it. Karimli wrote: “Those who always say “I don’t get involved in politics”, “why should I care about the establishment of a police regime in the country?” now should look carefully at this situation. This citizen says that he was tortured for four days in the police station so that he would confess to a crime he did not commit. Even after the court acquitted him, the police did not consider the judge’s decision and arrested and tortured him. Do not remain indifferent to the police regime’s arbitrary behavior. Every citizen can become a victim of the police.” Member of NCDF Tofig Yagublu also commented on the subject, saying that the most urgent problem facing the nation at the moment is ensuring the freedom of assembly in the country. “If we can’t solve this problem, we won’t be able to solve any of the many other problems that the family rule has created for us,” concluded Yagublu.
Governance and Corruption
The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on territorial integrity and condemned the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories by Russia. 143 countries voted in favor of the resolution, five countries voted against it, and 35 countries abstained. The Azerbaijani delegation together with Iran, Venezuela, Turkmenistan, and several other countries, did not participate in the voting.
European Union ambassadors agreed to send a civilian mission to Armenia to facilitate delimitation and to strengthen trust between Azerbaijan. To this end, a civilian mission will be deployed on the border with Azerbaijan. Radio Liberty reports citing diplomatic sources, that the decision was made at a closed session of the Political and Security Commission. According to the Radio, the details of the implementation of the mission are currently being discussed.
Journalist Seymur Hezi said that for long-term peace in the region, Azerbaijan should guarantee the rights and freedoms of its citizens. Hezi wrote: “A peace agreement, which is expected to be signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan, is underway. However, there are those who want to prevent this process. These are the Russian and Armenian authorities and the Armenian diaspora in France and the USA. However, they are not the only ones who want to sabotage the peace. Ilham Aliyev himself is hindering this process as well. How? With a hostile attitude towards Niyamaddin Ahmadov. With a vengeful attitude towards Sahin Hajiyev. The list can be extended, but to put it briefly, by stifling the freedoms. No one will help him neutralize Putin and Pashinyan until he removes the obstacle he himself created at th efirst place. Now the main question is does Ilham Aliyev want peace? If he wants, he must first establish peace inside the country with the citizens. Political prisoners should be released immediately. All political freedoms must be guaranteed unconditionally. Only after that there will be real, permanent and legitimate peace.”
MP Tahir Rzayev made a controversial statement when saying that the economic situation in the country is not bad “as everyone has a refrigerator and TV in their houses.” MP’s words are read by social media users as a poor assessment of the current situation in the country and belittling the people who have basic household appliances in their houses. Activist Ilkin Muradov said that “it is humiliating”. “Take that MP to a house with an empty refrigerator and keep him in that refrigerator for a few days to see if he was right,” added Muradov.
Rasim Mammadov, the former head of “Baku Steel Company” LLC – a steelmaking plant, who has been in prison for almost two years, said that the officials gave false information to the president. Mammadov made the statement on October 10 at the Baku Court of Serious Crimes when his case was being considered: “Some officials disgrace businessmen like me in front of the President. Do you think anyone will invest in Azerbaijan in this situation? If they want to arrest me, let them arrest me, there are other ways to do it – put a gun on my head or throw a bomb. I was not aiming to get jailed in 2010 when I invested in purchasing a plant and developing it. Mister President is given false information. They told me at the State Security Service that I had made 500 million. First, it was not that much, and second, I worked hard. I am not a public officer, I am a businessman. One day, the conversations will be revealed, and those who attacked me today will be sitting here in my place. Slandering someone is not a decent thing to do…”
Twenty-five days have passed since the prosecutor’s office started to investigate the payment of 6,000 manats as a bribe by martyr Sabuhi Ahmadov in order to get a higher rank. According to the journalist Habib Muntezir, the amount of bribes at the Ministry of Defence has increased since the war. Muntezir wrote: The whole system is in the filth of bribery. After the war, “the fee” required for avoiding military service due to illness doubled. In order to avoid military service, a young man needs to pay approximately 7-10 thousand manats and 1500 manats every three years (up to the age of 35). It costs 4,500 manats to choose the location of the military service and 1,000 manats to postpone it. The cost of “serving in the army” while you stay at home is around 70-80 thousand manats in Baku. It can be arranged for a lower price with the help of connections. These prices vary from region to region.”
October 14, 2022