Center for National and International Studies



“The suppression of free media, along with the unjust imprisonment of respected political leaders on unfounded and ludicrous charges, serves not only to instill fear in the entire society but also to challenge the democratic world by expanding the regime’s repressive measures…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

Aziz Orujov, the imprisoned journalist, faces additional hardships as his brother, Anar Orujov, disclosed that the bank accounts of Aziz’s wife and mother have been frozen, plunging them into a dire financial predicament. Anar Orujov expressed his frustration, stating that the Azerbaijani authorities are not only subjecting their family member to imprisonment but also to hunger and destitution. The bank card belonging to Aziz Orujov and his partner, Lamiye Cherpanova, has been rendered inactive. Furthermore, their mother’s pension card has been blocked, preventing her from accessing her monthly pension of 320 manats. Anar Orujov said that if the authorities aim to place his brother behind bars and leave his family in a state of starvation, they are succeeding in achieving their ruthless objectives. He attributed the baseless accusations and harsh decisions, including the arrest of Aziz Orujov and the directive to shut down Kanal 13, to emanate from the presidential office. “The representatives of the Azerbaijani authorities have decided to test our family not only with imprisonment, but also with hunger and poverty”, said Orujov.

The court has ruled to impede access to the “Channel 13” portal. Following the apprehension of Aziz Orujov, the executive director of the internet television station “Kanal 13,” a decision was made to block the online media platform under his leadership. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) forwarded a communication to the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport, asserting that the channel disseminates false and derogatory information about individuals employed in various governmental entities. The MIA justified the request for blocking by citing the prolonged negative impact on the ability to furnish civil society with accurate and impartial information. The letter further notes that Aziz Orujov, the head of the aforementioned media organization, is currently in custody as a defendant.

Apart from the five individuals detained in connection with the criminal case linked to the AbzasMedia online news platform, approximately 20 individuals currently free have been subjected to restraining orders. These orders prevent family members of those arrested, journalists questioned as witnesses in the case investigation, and social activists from leaving the country, while their assets and bank accounts are confiscated. Notably, among the frozen bank accounts are the pension cards belonging to the mother of incarcerated journalist Sevinj Vagifgizi, Ofelya Maharramova, and the mother of jailed editor Ulvi Hasanli, Esvira Musayeva.

Individuals affected by the blocked pension and salary cards express significant hardships, facing challenges in meeting their financial requirements due to these measures. Maharramova, upon attempting to withdraw her pension from the ATM on December 15, discovered that her card had been blocked. Despite having funds in the card, withdrawal proved impossible. Relatives of Hasanli report financial struggles resulting from the blocking of his mother’s pension and his sister’s salary card. Narmin Hasanova, Hasanli‘s sister, emphasizes the predicament of meeting daily household needs since their salary and pension cards have been rendered inaccessible.

The recent detentions of journalists, opposition activists, and government critics in Azerbaijan have been deemed “unacceptable” by the US State Department. The United States is urging the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms. During a briefing, State Department Press Secretary Matthew Miller expressed concern over the troubling trend of arresting journalists, civil society activists, and opposition figures. Responding to a question about the arrest of oppositionist Tofig Yagublu and other critics, Miller emphasized the gravity of the situation, stating, “More than ten critics have been arrested in the last month alone. This is unacceptable!”

The National Council of Democratic Forces has issued a statement regarding the arrest of Tofig Yagublu and the ongoing repressions. According to the statement, the criminal prosecution of Tofig Yagublu, a prominent Azerbaijani politician who has dedicated his life to high values such as democracy, the rule of law, a dignified life, and the establishment of a free and fair society, is both outrageous and fabricated. Described as politically motivated, akin to other political criminal cases, it is seen as an act of retaliation by the regime against Yagublu for his principled political activism.

The statement emphasizes that the suppression of free media, along with the unjust imprisonment of respected political leaders like Gubad Ibadoglu and Tofig Yagublu on unfounded and ludicrous charges, serves not only to instill fear in the entire society but also to challenge the democratic world by expanding the regime’s repressive measures. These actions are deemed to exacerbate the social situation of the reactionary regime, deepen the economic crisis, and impede the European integration movement in the region, as well as global shifts towards democracy triumphing over authoritarianism.

The National Council of Democratic Forces calls upon Ilham Aliyev‘s regime to refrain from attempting to steer Azerbaijan towards totalitarian rule. The statement argues that diverting a country with a century-old tradition of democracy from its geopolitical position in the South Caucasus towards the east, in a bid to protect familial power, is both futile and detrimental in every sense.

Elchin Mammadli, a former political prisoner, human rights advocate, and journalist, is facing accusations of hooliganism and alleged assault against Fuad Huseynov. Police officers visited Mammadli’s apartment multiple times, emphasizing the importance of responding to the police station’s summons, citing an ongoing investigation based on a complaint against him. Mammadli, who has been summoned to the police on several occasions, allegedly assaulted Huseynov during the summer of the current year, prompting the alleged victim to file a complaint. The police have transferred the case materials to the investigative department, indicating the likelihood of initiating a criminal case against the human rights defender, with potential arrest looming. Notably, during the mentioned period, Mammadli was receiving medical treatment in Georgia and remains under ongoing care, making it practically implausible for him to have committed the alleged assault. The transfer of the case materials to the investigative department raises concerns about the possibility of Mammadli facing arrest again, especially in light of recent developments. Prior to his previous arrest, Mammadli received serious death threats in late 2019 related to his advocacy work, putting his life in jeopardy. Despite his complaints going unaddressed, he was swiftly arrested in March 2020 based on a fabricated complaint from a woman. This led to Mammadli’s four-year imprisonment, with court decisions seemingly influenced by external pressures. Despite his legal efforts, a positive outcome was elusive, and the persistent threat to his life preceding his imprisonment remains unresolved.

Samir Ashurov, a political dissident expelled from Germany, has been sentenced to 6 years and 6 months in prison. In September 2020, Ashurov, along with other exiled activists, staged protests and a hunger strike outside the Chancellor’s office in Berlin, advocating for the release of Tofig Yagublu. During their final day of protest, they met with European Union Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen, live-streaming their plea for Yagublu‘s freedom, which ultimately led to his release. Now, three years later, both Yagublu and Ashurov find themselves imprisoned.

Despite presenting evidence to the German government that Ashurov would face arrest upon his return to Azerbaijan, including his involvement in blocking President Aliyev‘s motorcade at the Munich Security Conference in 2020, the authorities disregarded these warnings. The German government was informed of various instances of the regime’s inhuman treatment of the political emigrants yet failed to consider these facts. Those who participated in the Munich action faced persecution in Europe, with Emin Malikov enduring severe beatings, subsequent mental health issues, and eventual deportation to Baku, where he was arrested and remains in prison.

Another participant, Mutallim Oruj, also faced imprisonment, having undergone unimaginable torture, including threats of rape by the Guba police chief. Samir Ashurov’s wife and two young children have also suffered persecution, with their rented home raided and constant surveillance. Living under psychological pressure, the family was left homeless, compelling them to flee Azerbaijan once again. They now reside in Georgia, grappling with numerous oppressions and challenges.

Entry to Shusha, a city in the Karabakh region, is restricted, banning individuals from entering. From December 31 to January 2, individual entry into Shusha is prohibited, even for those whose names are registered on the portal. These restrictions are linked to the events organized as part of the New Year program in Shusha. This year marks the inaugural celebration of New Year festivities in Shusha hotels. As a result, hotels in Shusha have introduced holiday packages. Those desiring to usher in the New Year in Shusha are advised to purchase tour packages exclusively which is considered outrageously overpriced.

December 22, 2023