Center for National and International Studies



“If the rule of law prevailed, if there was freedom of assembly, if elections were truly free, could the government act in such an arbitrary, cruel, and unrestrained manner?…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

Imran Gurbanli, the head of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AXCP) Sharur district branch, was taken into custody by officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Sharur district police on May 21. Shortly after, the Sharur district police department stated that Imran Gurbanli was not in their custody. With no communication established with Gurbanli, the AXCP Nakhchivan branch concluded that he had been abducted by unknown individuals. Gurbanli was detained immediately upon his return from Turkey to Nakhchivan, where he had gone to attend his father’s funeral. The Party later announced that Gurbanli, who was falsely accused and detained, has been placed under administrative detention for 30 days.

A few weeks ago, another AXCP member, Elshan Karimov, was arrested upon his arrival in Yevlakh from Russia, where he resides, to attend his father’s funeral. His Facebook posts were used as a pretext to bring criminal charges against him.

Yunis Guliyev, a resident of Zabrat settlement in Sabunchu district, was detained from March 2023 to March 2024 under Article 234.1-1 of the Criminal Code, which pertains to the acquisition, transportation, and storage of large quantities of narcotics without the intent to sell. However, the court found the drug charges against him to be unfounded and decided to release him with an acquittal. Born in 1990, Guliyev asserts that he was falsely accused and imprisoned. He claims to be a neighbor of Fazil Mustafa, a member of Parliament, in the Zabrat settlement and attributes his arrest to this connection. According to the charges, Yunis Guliyev was apprehended by officers of the 15th police station in Zabrat settlement around 4:00 PM on March 31, 2023. Following his arrival at the police station, he underwent a search during which 2.75 grams of narcotics were allegedly discovered in his pocket. Guliyev contends that he was taken to the police station in connection with an assassination attempt against Fazil Mustafa and was subsequently framed with drug possession. He maintains that he was subjected to physical assault throughout the night, threatened with harm to his spouse, and coerced into admitting ownership of narcotics that did not belong to him.

Political activist Ramin Aliyev has been placed under pretrial detention for two months and 5 days. He is accused of fraud. Ramin Aliyev and his relatives reject the charges, linking the current criminal prosecution to his posts and speeches criticizing the government.

It has been half a year since the initiation of a criminal case against the leadership and personnel of “Abzas Media,” resulting in their unjust incarceration. Throughout this period, Azerbaijan’s government has sought to persuade both domestic and international audiences, through official and unofficial channels, that there exists a legitimate criminal case under investigation. High-ranking officials such as Presidential Assistant Hikmet Hajiyev, Minister of Internal Affairs Vilayat Eyvazov, along with other government figures and lawmakers, have echoed remarkably similar statements on this matter. Concurrently, state-run media outlets have disseminated content echoing these sentiments, indicating a political rather than a legal issue, evidently orchestrated from a central authority. Even President Ilham Aliyev‘s remarks on this issue have contravened constitutional requirements. During a press conference in Berlin on April 26, in response to inquiries about the detained journalists, the President asserted that “representatives of certain media outlets illegally financed from abroad have been detained by investigative authorities,” justifying their detention as lawful. However, as per Article 63 of the Constitution, nobody can be deemed guilty of a crime without a court verdict. Abzas Media has highlighted 15 instances demonstrating the unfounded and unlawful nature of the charges against the journalists. By making such assertions prior to the conclusion of a judicial inquiry, the President has infringed upon the journalists’ presumption of innocence, a similar breach observed during the initial investigative phase.

The systematic dismissal of appeals in the “Abzas Media case” persists. A complaint regarding the house arrest of journalist Nargiz Abasalomova, linked to the “Abzas Media case,” was addressed on May 22. It’s noted that the defense sought the reversal of the Khatai District Court’s decision. However, the Appeals Court rejected the appeal, upholding the initial court’s ruling. Nargiz Abasalamova was apprehended at the Baku City Main Police Department on November 30 of the previous year, during her second summons for testimony in the “Abzas Media case.” She was charged under Article 206.3.2 of the Criminal Code (group smuggling) and detained for three months. This detention period was later extended by another three months. Since November of the previous year, the leadership and colleagues of “Abzas Media,” known for publishing corruption investigations involving high-ranking officials in Azerbaijan, have been detained on “smuggling” charges. Presently, six members of the media organization remain in custody. International journalist and human rights organizations have urged for the release of those detained, asserting that the charges against “Abzas Media” are fabricated.

At the administrative building of the Nizami District Prosecutor’s Office, a public meeting was held with Prosecutor General Kamran Aliyev. Rufat Bakirov, residing in Baku’s Binagadi district, had registered for this meeting a week ago. However, in the morning, around 9 AM, as he was on his way to the meeting, four individuals, one of them in plain clothes, approached him near the Nizami District Prosecutor’s Office and instructed him to accompany them. Rufat Bakirov was taken to the 25th Police Station of the Nizami District Police Department. He was informed that they were taking him to meet the chief, who had spoken to the prosecutor and would send him to the meeting. Rufat Bakirov states that his personal belongings were confiscated at the police station, and he was denied permission to contact his relatives. He also claims to have been threatened during his time at the police station. After the meeting concluded, he was released around 3 PM. Rufat Bakirov asserts that security cameras were present at the location of his detention, and his transportation to and release from the police station can be confirmed through camera footage. He has reported this incident to the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ 102 Service. Rufat Bakirov’s intention in registering for the meeting was to inform Prosecutor General Kamran Aliyev about the actions taken against him by the employees of the Baku City and Nizami District Prosecutor’s Offices. Despite ample evidence, the prosecutor’s office has failed to initiate a criminal case. The court has nullified the prosecutor’s decision not to initiate a criminal case five times, sending it back for further investigation, yet the investigator continues to reach the same decision. Rufat Bakirov mentions that he has met multiple times with the First Deputy Prosecutor General, department heads, and the Baku City Prosecutor regarding this issue, but has been unable to meet with the Prosecutor General himself. Therefore, he registered for today’s meeting to directly address his concerns with the Prosecutor General. After his release from the police station, Rufat Bakirov informed Toghrul Ahmadov, an employee of the Prosecutor General’s Office, about his ordeal. Ahmadov stated that their office had not issued any orders for his detention and suggested that the orders may have originated from the State Security Service (DTX). Rufat Bakirov alleges that the actions are orchestrated by Baku City Prosecutor Elshan Abbasov. Consequently, he demands that the case be investigated not by the Nizami District Prosecutor’s Office or the Baku City Prosecutor’s Office, but by the Investigation Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The Sabail District Court decided on May 21 to extend the pretrial detention of Aziz Orujov, the leader of “Kanal 13” Internet TV, and Shamo Eminov, a member of the media organization, for an additional month.

According to the recent news, effective from June 1, the initial fare for taxis will be 4.50 manats. Just a year ago, the starting fare stood at 1.60 manats, making it nearly three times cheaper. Initially raised to 2.50 manats last year, the fare is now set to escalate to 4.50 manats. Ali Karimli, the Chairperson of AXCP, lamented that this new fare structure marks the end of an era where taxi services were accessible to many. Karimli expressed, “The regime has deprived our compatriots, most of whom are impoverished and reliant on affordable taxis due to inadequate public transportation, of their last solace.” He further added, “It seems they closely monitor any glimmer of hope for the people and swiftly extinguish it.” With up to 40,000 taxi drivers facing the loss of their primary source of income and millions unable to afford even a taxi ride starting June 1, Karimli posed a critical question: “If the rule of law prevailed, if there was freedom of assembly, if elections were truly free, could the government act in such an arbitrary, cruel, and unrestrained manner?” He urged that achieving free and fair elections should be a national obligation for the people.

The surge in market prices poses significant challenges for individuals earning minimum wage, as their earnings fail to meet their expenses. Consequently, they advocate for wage increases to cope with the escalating costs. In Azerbaijan, the minimum wage was last adjusted on January 1st of the previous year, with a presidential decree raising it by 15 percent from 300 manats to 345 manats. This year, proposals for another minimum wage increase are being formulated in Azerbaijan, as per the “Labor Market” Worker Group Activity Plan for 2024 by the Business Environment and International Ratings Commission. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection has been assigned the task of drafting proposals for a minimum wage hike by November 1st of this year. Economic analyst Farid Mehralizadeh told Abzas Media that the government’s goal, outlined in the 2012 “Vision for the Future 2020” development concept, was to elevate the minimum wage to 60 percent of the country’s average monthly wage by 2020. However, the current minimum wage falls short, standing at only half of the intended target.

May 24, 2024