Center for National and International Studies



“Despite objections from the opposition and activists regarding the illogical closure of land borders for four years, the authorities have not taken them into consideration…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

Elkhan Aliyev, an activist from the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party (AXCP), who has been imprisoned for 10 months, has announced that he will start a hunger strike to the death. At the Baku Court of Appeal, he declared that beginning on May 15, he will refuse both food and water. An AXCP official explained that Aliyev is taking this drastic step to protest his unlawful imprisonment. According to Aliyev, he has been detained for 10 months on political orders despite not committing any crime.

Reports indicate that Alasgar Mammadli, the founder of “Toplum TV,” an internet television channel, and its corresponding portal, as well as an expert in media law, has seen a decline in his health while in prison. This information was conveyed by his family members. Nasimi Mammadli, his brother, highlighted that despite suffering from a severe illness, Alasgar Mammadli has been unable to access treatment. According to Nasimi Mammadli, a previously prescribed treatment regimen has concluded, yet no steps have been taken to continue it. Approximately 10 days ago, Alasgar Mammadli was taken to the Penitentiary Service’s Treatment Facility for tests, but neither he nor his lawyer has been informed of the results. Nasimi Mammadli noted the lack of conditions for a needle biopsy of the lump in his brother’s throat, specifically related to the thyroid gland. Alasgar Mammadli continues to experience difficulty breathing, sleep disturbances, and a sensation of suffocation when lying down. His blood pressure is elevated, and he has encountered voice problems and heavy breathing. Despite his urgent need for medical attention, Alasgar remains detained without evidence, leaving him feeling as though he is being held hostage.

As disclosed by his lawyer, Agil Layij, the inquiry into the criminal case involving opposition figure Tofig Yagublu is set to wrap up this week. Today, investigator Abdulla Jalilli convened with Tofig Yagublu at the Baku Detention Center and presented the ultimate indictment. The investigator is anticipated to finalize the investigation decision within this week. Subsequently, legal representatives will scrutinize the investigation materials next week. It is probable that the case will be forwarded to court by month’s end. Tofig Yagublu refutes the allegations leveled against him.

The journalist Nargiz Absalamova, an employee of “Abzas Media,” has been denied house arrest once again. This update comes from her lawyer, Rovshana Rahimli. Despite the lawyer’s efforts, the Khatai District Court has declined the request to replace the journalist’s detention with a non-custodial measure. Nargiz Absalamova has been in custody for nearly six months, purportedly for the sake of an ongoing investigation.

Natig Mehdi, a member of the Musavat Party and a candidate running for the Party chairmanship who withdrew from the race a few days prior to the congress, has been killed. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs press service, Natig Mehdi had been missing for four days. The last known sighting of the Musavat member was on May 10 when he left his residence in his personal vehicle. Concerned relatives of the activist had filed a report with the police department of the Khatai district to locate him. On May 14, law enforcement authorities confirmed his murder. The Ministry of Internal Affairs alleges that 60-year-old Natig Mehdi was killed by his colleague: “There are significant suspicions that Natig Mehdi, was murdered by his colleague Elsever Islamov due to personal reasons. Elsever Islamov was apprehended by the police and taken in for questioning.” The Musavat Party congress took place on May 4, during which Isa Gambar was re-elected as the party’s chairman.

On May 14, 2024, a session of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Party (ADR) Board of Directors convened. During the session, a resolution was passed to adhere to the stipulations outlined in Article 4.7 of the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan “On Political Parties,” leading to the suspension of the party’s operations. Article 4.7 of this law prohibits political parties from functioning without state registration. Consequently, Gubad Ibadoghlu, the party’s chairman, had previously issued a directive on January 12, 2023, dissolving the party’s central executive bodies and discontinuing the activities of designated officials, thereby assuming responsibility for this decision. Recognizing the imperative to align ADR’s operations with the statutory requirements of the Law “On Political Parties,” the Board members resolved to suspend the party’s activities due to its lack of registration. In light of this development, Party chairman Gubad Ibadoghlu, who was released from nine months of imprisonment and placed under house arrest, has opted to take an indefinite hiatus from his political engagements due to severe deteriorations in his health, particularly irreversible cardiac issues. Gubad Ibadoghlu extends his appreciation to the party leadership and members who stood in solidarity with him throughout his tenure at ADR, especially acknowledging their support during his period of incarceration.

Meydan TV reported that it has advanced to the finals of the 2024 World Justice Challenge. Dedicated to impartially reporting news in three languages on events in Azerbaijan and globally,  Meydan TV is among over 400 contenders, and the winner will be announced in early August. Presently, there are five other finalists in the media and information category from Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Ghana, and Albania. Meydan TV stands as the sole representative from Azerbaijan and the broader South Caucasus in this competition. Established in 2013, the TV’s mission is to inform engaged members of society about political, economic, and social matters, fostering open dialogues on pertinent issues within Azerbaijani society. According to Meydan TV’s statement, despite its impactful endeavors, the Azerbaijani government has persistently targeted the organization, initiating legal proceedings against its leadership and imposing a ban on its journalists from leaving the country for over four years. Currently, access to the website of Meydan TV remains restricted in Azerbaijan.

The State Border Service (SBS) reported that on May 14, a total of 36 Azerbaijani citizens were detained. Twelve individuals, including eight minors, were apprehended within the service area of the “Gazakh” border division, while 24 individuals, including 16 minors, were detained within the service area of the “Shamkir” border detachment. According to the SBS, these individuals were detained while attempting to cross the state border from Georgia to Azerbaijan. The State Border Service (SBS) released photos, including those of young children, to the public and indicated that operational and investigative activities are ongoing. However, no additional information was disclosed. It is presumed that the individuals detained were trying to cross the border on foot due to financial constraints preventing air travel. Azerbaijani land borders have been closed since spring 2020 as part of pandemic control measures. Despite objections from the opposition and activists regarding the illogical closure of land borders for four years, the authorities have not taken them into consideration.

Governance and Corruption

The involvement of a third party has emerged in the case implicating Henry Cuellar, a member of the US House of Representatives, and his wife Imelda Cuellar, accused of accepting bribes from Azerbaijan. This individual is identified as Irada Akhundova, a citizen of Azerbaijan. Irada Akhundova has been convicted of unlawful conduct as an agent for the Azerbaijani government and the State Oil Company: “This constitutes a breach of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Akhundova confessed to aiding Imelda Cuellar, the congressman’s wife indicted in April, in making a $60,000 payment.” It is reported that Irada Akhundova has agreed to testify in any legal proceedings, including before a grand jury, and to provide documents pertaining to the federal government’s investigation into the Cuellars as part of a plea deal. She faces a potential sentence of up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Irada Akhundova was honored with the “Progress” medal in 2021 by President Aliyev for her contributions to fostering friendship between nations and advancing the Azerbaijani diaspora.

The Baku City Executive Authority has again declined permission for the rally scheduled by the National Council of Democratic Forces on May 19. According to the National Council, the executive authority cited ongoing repair work at the Yasamal Sports and Health Complex stadium mentioned in the rally request. Concerning the squares in front of the “28 May” and “Nariman Narimanov” metro stations, it was highlighted that these areas witness heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Thus, holding gatherings there would lead to traffic congestion and impede citizens’ freedom of movement. Notably, the National Council had expressed openness to considering alternative locations suggested by the Baku City Executive Authority in their request. However, the executive authority did not propose any alternative venues to the opposition bloc.

May 17, 2024