Center for National and International Studies



“If there were an independent judiciary and human rights in Azerbaijan, I wouldn’t be here today. This is the fourth time I have been imprisoned on false charges. I have lost count of my administrative detentions…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

On June 15, member of the Nida Civic Movement (N!DA) Nijat Amiraslanov was detained by police. His relatives informed “Abzas Media” about this. According to his relatives, Amiraslanov left his house in the Gazakh district during the day, saying he would return shortly, but he was unreachable for hours afterward. It was only in the evening that information surfaced about him being detained and taken to the Baku City Main Police Department. Although the reason for Amiraslanov’s detention is unclear, it has been reported that the civic activist is currently held at the Khatai District Police Department. Yesterday, the Ministry of Internal Affairs stated that it had no information about him. It is suspected that Amiraslanov was detained based on statements made by journalist Shirin Abbasov, who was detained in Baku upon returning from Germany. Journalist Shirin Abbasov, who had been in exile in Germany for over eight years, was detained at the airport in Baku on the morning of June 14 upon his return to Azerbaijan.

Exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli said that the fact that the activist is detained during the holiday is worrying as, during this time, he might be subjected to torture. Mukhtarli: “There is still no news about journalist Nijat Amiraslanov, who was kidnapped yesterday morning. Last night, we received information that Nijat was being held at the Baku City Main Police Department. Later, Nijat was taken to the Khatai District Police Department. A few hours ago, his friends contacted the department, and they were told that Nijat was there and that they could bring food. However, this is now being denied. We are worried about the journalist’s safety. Nijat is not being allowed to speak with his family over the phone, nor is he being permitted to hire a lawyer. There are four days of holiday, and during this time, no one will be able to see him. These four days mean continuous torture. We have repeatedly witnessed activists who are kidnapped in such circumstances being subjected to torture and being forced to reject their lawyers.”

Lawyer Agil Layij stated that their request for political prisoner Alasgar Ahmadoglu (Mammadli) to be transferred to a hospital for an examination was reviewed. The investigation did not object to the complaint. As a result, Mammadli will be examined by his chosen doctors at a hospital of his choice for a biopsy and will be temporarily transferred to the hospital. The Khatai Court made this decision. Between March 6th and 8th, authorities detained nine individuals associated with Tolum TV and its partner organization, the Institute for Democratic Initiatives, on charges of smuggling foreign currency. Among them, seven were arrested while two were placed under police supervision. Alesker Mammadli, the founder of Tolum TV, was also implicated in the currency smuggling case. Allegedly, during a search of his apartment, authorities claimed to have found 7,300 euros. Despite Mammadli‘s significant health issues, the court has consistently denied requests to place him under house arrest.

The next hearing in the case of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AXCP) member Elnur Hasanov was held at the Baku Court of Grave Crimes. Before the trial began, Elnur Hasanov reported that he had been subjected to horrific torture after the previous court session. This caused justified outrage among those attending the court. Following objections to the judge about this issue, Judge Javid Huseynov demonstratively announced the postponement of the trial to August 2.

At his trial, opposition figure Tofig Yagublu addressed a written appeal to representatives of the US and German embassies who were observing the proceedings, calling on the West to boycott COP29. Politician Tofig Yagublu considers himself not an accused, but a victim. He stated this during his trial on June 14: “I am personally a hostage arrested at the order of Ilham Aliyev. In this case, I am not the accused, but the victim.” The trial of the political activist, who has been imprisoned for more than six months, has begun. Tofig Yagublu emphasized that he has no positive expectations from this process, given the lack of judicial fairness in politically motivated cases in Azerbaijan: “If there were an independent judiciary and human rights in Azerbaijan, I wouldn’t be here today. This is the fourth time I have been imprisoned on false charges. I have lost count of my administrative detentions. Accusing me of fraud is an insult.”

Lawyer Agil Layij reflected on the conditions of detention centers, highlighting the disturbing reality. Layij: “Arbitrariness continues unabated at the Baku Pretrial Detention Center. Documents prepared by political prisoners for their defense are forcibly taken from them, and their letters addressed to various state bodies are not being sent. This has become a widespread issue. This situation has occurred against Sevinj Vagifgizi, Tofig Yagublu, and Alesker Mammadli. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev noted during a meeting yesterday that his petitions addressed to various state bodies are not being sent. He said the warden told him that the Azerbaijan Republic Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice decides who can send letters and who cannot. Will the Ministry of Justice of the Azerbaijan Republic take any action? There has never been such a blatant assault on the law in this country…”

Fazil Gasimov, an Azerbaijani scholar working at a university in Turkey, who was detained in Istanbul 10 months ago and brought to Azerbaijan, has reported being subjected to torture and inhumane treatment. Gasimov is being accused in the same criminal case as Professor Gubad Ibadoglu. He disclosed the details of his ordeal in letters addressed to various state authorities, including Prosecutor General Kamran Aliyev, Ombudsman Sabina Aliyeva, and the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. According to Gasimov, he endured hours of beatings, electric shocks, and even had his head shoved into a toilet bowl at the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime (commonly known as “bandotdel”), all to extract a confession against Gubad Ibadoghlu. He emphasized that he gave his statements under severe psychological and physical torture and has since retracted them. The scholar also implicated his former lawyer, Anar Gasimli, in the initial investigation period. In his letters, he wrote that Anar Gasimli, alongside the investigator, pressured him to give statements against Gubad Ibadoghlu. Gasimov, who lived in Turkey for 12 years and is a doctoral candidate at Istanbul University, considers it an injustice that he was detained and handed over to Azerbaijan without having committed any crime or having any evidence against him. Gasimov is currently on a hunger strike, considering his detention to be baseless and orchestrated. Additionally, he claims to have been subjected to severe torture and degrading treatment during and after his arrest. He states that he has retracted the false statements he was forced to make against Gubad Ibadoghlu.

Human Rights lawyer Rufat Safarov said that the independent media, human rights organizations, and civil society should keep Fazil Gasimov’s case in the spotlight and provide support to him. “He is in a vulnerable position and has not signed any false protocols or decisions of his own free will. Furthermore, Fazil Gasimov is seeking a lawyer to defend his rights, emphasizing that he is currently in a difficult and defenseless situation”, said Safarov.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has expressed disappointment this week over several decisions made by Azerbaijani courts. The CPJ issued a statement regarding the extension of detention for six employees of “Abzas Media.” On June 12, the Khatai District Court extended the detention period of “Abzas Media” director Ulvi Hasanli, chief editor Sevinj Vagifgizi, and project manager Muhammad Kekalov by three months. On Tuesday, the same court extended the detention period of the journalist Nargiz Absalamova by three months. On Monday, the detention periods for journalists Hafiz Babali and Elnara Gasimova were extended by one and two months, respectively. The CPJ’s statement expressed disappointment at the Azerbaijani government’s unjustified extensions of the detention periods for “Abzas Media” journalists.

On June 14, the Union for the Freedom of Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan released a new list of political prisoners in the country. According to “Turan,” the list includes 303 people. Compared to the previous list dated March 18, the number of political prisoners has increased by 16. Over the past three months, only opposition politician and economist Gubad Ibadoghlu has been removed from the list, as his pre-trial detention measure was changed. The new list includes 17 new names: human rights defender Anar Mammadli, head of the online platform meclis.info Imran Aliyev, economist Farid Mehralizade, members of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party Sahib Mammadzade and Mehman Aliyev, public activists Elshan Karimov and Lachin Valiyev, as well as paralyzed activist Famil Khalilov. The other nine are religious figures.

For nearly seven months, the Court of Appeals has not accepted any petitions from the defense side in the Abzas Media case. On June 14, the Baku Court of Appeals reviewed the appeal against the latest extension of detention for “Abzas Media” journalists Ulvi Hasanli, Sevinc Vagifgizi (Abbasova), and Hafiz Babali. According to the defenders, Judge Ramin Qaraqurbanli presided over Hasanli‘s case, Judge Habil Mammadov over Vagifgizi’s case, and Judge Anar Ibrahimov over Babali’s case. All three judges upheld the Khatai District Court’s decisions to extend the journalists’ detention periods. The defenders claim that these decisions are baseless and unlawful.

Journalist Shirin Abbasov, who had been in exile in Germany for over eight years, was detained at the airport in Baku on the morning of June 14 upon his return to Azerbaijan. On June 15, he was brought before the Binagadi District Court. Known as Shirin Tire, the journalist left the country in 2015, and a criminal case was initiated against him under Article 318 of the Criminal Code (illegal crossing of the state border of Azerbaijan) eight years ago, along with an arrest warrant. His detention on June 14 upon returning to Azerbaijan was related to this criminal case and the fact that he was wanted. During the court session on June 15, it was revealed that the Prosecutor General’s Office had submitted a motion to the court to cancel the arrest warrant. The court granted this motion, and the arrest warrant was lifted. However, the criminal case against him has not been closed. Another type of preventive measure has been applied to Shirin Abbasov. It remains unclear whether the investigation will continue while he is at liberty or if the criminal case will be dismissed altogether.

June 18, 2024