Center for National and International Studies



“There is no compelling rationale or justification for the government to reject the opposition’s rally. Rejecting it would signify an admission of weakness, representing a moral and political failure of the government…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

Summoning of journalists to the police has resumed, indicating a potential for new arrests. On April 17, journalist Mina Alyarli was called to appear at the Baku City Main Police Department at 4:00 PM. The head investigator of the Serious Crimes Investigation Department, Togrul Huseynov, contacted Alyarli on April 15 to convey that additional questions had emerged and requested her presence at the department. Subsequently, the summoning date was rescheduled for April 17. Alyarli had previously been summoned for this case on November 23 last year. Notably, all journalists questioned in this case have been arrested for the second time. Following interrogation, Alyarli was released without a detention sentence.

The string of arrests began on November last year, with the director of Abzas Media, Ulvi Hasanli, his deputy Mehmed Kekalov, followed by the chief editor Sevinj Vagifgizi on November 21, reporter Nargiz Absalamova on November 30, investigative journalist Hafiz Babali on December 13, and journalist Elnara Gasimova on January 13. They are facing charges under Article 206.3.2 of the Criminal Code (smuggling, committed by a group of individuals in advance), with pretrial detention measures imposed against them. If the court accepts the prosecutor’s charges during the investigation, the journalists could potentially face up to 8 years in prison. The accused journalists have refuted the allegations, attributing their arrests to corruption investigations published by Abzas Media.

Since February 24, the detention periods of all journalists arrested in the Abzas Media case have been extended for another 3 months. International organizations have criticized these decisions, linking them to the flawed conduct of the investigation and reporting undue pressure on journalists.

During the court hearing on April 15, the Court of Appeal discussed the decision on the extension of opposition figure Tofig Yagublu‘s detention period by another two months. Yagublu asserted during the hearing that despite not committing any crimes, he had been held in detention for over 4 months due to political directives. “All the slanderers of the nation have come together to falsely accuse me. Neither you are a judge, nor is this a court. Just follow the order you are given…” Yagublu declared in court. The Baku Court of Appeal dismissed the complaint, upholding the Narimanov District Court’s decision to extend the detention for 2 more months.

Yagublu’s daughter Nigar Hezi expressed concern that her father’s mobile phone, confiscated since December, has not been returned, raising fears of potential hacking. Hezi: Tofig Yagublu was detained on December 14, and his phone was taken by the police. However, it was not returned along with other belongings to his family. Since then, I have been closely monitoring his phone online for any signs of interference almost daily. Yesterday, there was indeed interference with his phone. Specifically, they deleted his WhatsApp channel. Yet, they failed to gain full control over WhatsApp. It appears they attempted to open WhatsApp on another device using his number to access his personal messages, but they couldn’t bypass the security system. This is evident from the last login date on WhatsApp, which remains December 14. The true culprits are clearly involved. Considering that mobile operators are government-owned, they have unchecked power. If you receive anything from Tofiq Yagublu‘s number, please know that it’s orchestrated by the police.”

Zhala Bayramova, daughter of jailed economist and political leader Gubad Ibadoghlu shared concerning news about her father. Bayramova: “Lawyers informed us that my father’s toenails are falling out because of high diabetes. His toenails and even his feet can get amputated! He is dying of high diabetes and his nervous system causing polyneuropathy, peripheral nerve damage and damage to other internal organs. His vision has been impaired since the arrest.”

According to Azadliq newspaper, the family of Sahib Mammadzade, the head of the Dashkasan branch of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), is being denied the opportunity to meet with him. Mammadzade refutes all allegations against him, attributing his arrest primarily to his political affiliation.

According to Seymur Hidayatov, head consultant of the Department for the Organization of Work with Participants of the Patriotic War and Martyr Families of the Mingachevir District Executive Power, a veteran of the Second Karabakh War has tragically taken his own life in Mingachevir. The deceased, Mirjavad Hajiyev, born in 1997, was discovered on April 17 in the apartment he rented. “We received news yesterday afternoon of the passing of our soldier Mirjavad Hajiyev. He was found hanging in his rented apartment. We attended his funeral. The reason for his suicide remains unknown. The prosecutor’s office is conducting an investigation, and they will likely provide further details. Hajiyev was married and, to my knowledge, had two children. He resided separately from his family in the rented apartment,” stated Seymur Hidayatov. The Mingachevir City Prosecutor’s Office confirmed the incident to Meydan TV.

Since the end of the Second Karabakh War more than 60 veterans either committed suicide or attempted suicide.”

Governance and Corruption

The government rejected the National Council’s request to hold the planned rally on April 21. Ali Karimli, head of the APFP, stated that in response to this denial, the National Council will seek permission for the next rally scheduled for May 7. This will ensure the continuity of the process, with the opposition conducting a political pressure campaign to compel the government to fulfill its constitutional obligations without resorting to coercion, demonstrating strategic patience. Karimli emphasized that the effectiveness of this campaign hinges on the attention and support of the public, which will help uphold the freedom of assembly, a crucial international demand that led to Azerbaijan’s expulsion from the Council of Europe. Ali Karimli also pointed out that the decision to proceed with the rally presents a challenge to the government. “It is evident that should the regime refrain from impeding the rally, the opposition will successfully hold a significant gathering for the first time. Subsequent rallies are expected to attract even larger crowds. The period leading up to the parliamentary elections will create a more conducive political environment for the emerging opposition. However, if the government violates the Constitution and prohibits the next rally, it would signify its apprehension of a potent opposition within the country, despite resorting to severe repression and resource deprivation. There is no compelling rationale or justification for the government to reject the opposition’s rally. Rejecting it would signify an admission of weakness, representing a moral and political failure of the government.”

German MP Frank Schwabe, commenting on the decision to strip the Azerbaijani delegation of voting rights in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), stated in an interview with Turan agency that the restoration of Azerbaijan’s voting rights is contingent upon Baku meeting the Council of Europe’s requirements. However, he noted that as of now, Baku has not demonstrated such willingness. “If you have carefully read the report adopted at the January session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, we noted that the delegation was deprived of voting rights for a year. We are ready to consider another decision, but on the condition that Azerbaijan is ready to fully comply with the rules of the Council of Europe. Unfortunately, we do not see this yet. The events of recent months are enough evidence – the arrest of “Toplum” TV journalists and the refusal to release the very ill Gubad Ibadoglu. All these are very clear signals to us,” Schwabe remarked. When asked if some member countries of the PACE will raise the issue of restoring Azerbaijan’s delegation voting rights, Schwabe acknowledged the existence of such diplomatic pressure. “However, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is not a marketplace; it is an organization where principles, rules, and values exist. In recent months, we have seen once again that Azerbaijan does not recognize these rules and does not comply with them. On the contrary, we have seen steps in the opposite direction, especially after January of this year,” Schwabe emphasized.

The Kremlin has confirmed the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping unit from Azerbaijan’s Karabakh area, as relayed by Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. Notably, the process of withdrawing the temporary stationed Russian peacekeeping unit from Karabakh commenced the previous day. The initial contingent and military equipment of the peacekeeping unit departed in the Kalbajar region. Consequently, the departure process of the Russian peacekeeping unit from Azerbaijani territory has initiated. Furthermore, the operations of the Turkey-Russia Joint Monitoring Center situated in Agdam will be halted, as announced by the Turkish Ministry of National Defense. The statement mentioned, “The process of concluding the operations of the Turkey-Russia Joint Monitoring Center, established in Agdam, Azerbaijan, on January 30, 2021, to monitor the ceasefire regime and prevent legal violations in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, is underway in coordination with the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan.”

April 19, 2024