Center for National and International Studies
“It is widely recognized among those familiar with Azerbaijan’s political landscape that Gubad Ibadoghlu‘s arrest stems from his outspoken criticism, particularly his writings and speeches that have brought corruption to light.”
(Lack of ) Human Rights and Freedoms
Gubad Ibadoglu, a prominent economist, Senior Visiting Fellow at LSE, and the chairman of ADPP (Azerbaijan Democracy and Prosperity Party), has been detained and accused of having connections with “FETO,” which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. On the photos shared on social media Gubad Ibadoglu was seen being forcibly apprehended alongside his wife and taken to the detention center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Ibadoghlu’s office was searched, and documents were confiscated. The six-hour-long search in his office eventually concluded, and when he was brought out from the office, authorities covered his face with a black curtain to prevent anyone from seeing him. He conveyed to journalists that “This is Ilham Aliyev‘s order.”
Ibadoglu’s wife Irada Bayramova who was also assaulted by the police, appealed to the public, calling for support. Her open letter says: Gubad Ibadoglu, chairman of the ADPP Party, was detained by the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime yesterday on the order of Ilham Aliyev. The government has fabricated yet another false narrative, accusing him of selling counterfeit money, and simultaneously, both Turkish and Azerbaijani media are maligning him as a FETO member. Both Gubad and I have endured violence. We bear injuries on our bodies, and we are unable to access his necessary medications! Gubad Bey is unwell and requires multiple medicines throughout the day. By not allowing him to have medications, they want to kill him! Please, everyone, protest! Take to the streets for Gubad Bey! Raise your voice! Don’t let them kill Gubad Ibadoglu, don’t let this government kill him!”
Ibadoghlu’s daughter Zhala Bayramova said that both her parents were beaten by the police during detention and they were not given any explanation. Bahramova’s Facebook post: “20 agents of the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime got out of these cars and forcefully detained, beating up Mr. Gubad and his wife without introducing themselves. Mr. Gubad and his wife, Mrs. Irada, were put in separate cars and were taken to the MDCOC without any official warrant.” According to the statement given by Bayramova, the police allegedly discovered 40,000 dollars in her father’s office. Bayramova asserted that the money was planted by the police themselves.
Many view this arrest as nothing more than an orchestrated effort to silence one of the government’s critics and stifle dissenting voices.
Chairman of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party Ali Karimli condemned Ibadoghlu’s arrest, saying that he played a significant role in exposing the government’s corruption scheme in great detail. “Gubad Bey is one of the persons who exposed the corruption scheme of the government. It is widely recognized among those familiar with the country’s political landscape that Gubad Bey’s arrest stems from his outspoken criticism, particularly his writings and speeches that have brought corruption to light. Given the widespread awareness of this fact, the government’s accusations against Gubad Bey appear unfounded and illogical to many in the country.”
According to reports from Azerbaijani pro-governmental media, an operation targeting FETÖ (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization) took place in Azerbaijan, leading to the arrest of four individuals. “Yeni Şafak,” a Turkish newspaper, disclosed that the detained individuals include Doyrush Jafarov, a former leader of FETO in Azerbaijan, Gümrah Abdurakhmanov, responsible for the organization’s financial affairs, Ruslan Aliyev, the director of the center called “Yurd,” and Anar Aliyev, who handles organizational affairs. The arrested FETO members are currently detained following court proceedings.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan has officially confirmed Ibadoghlu‘s arrest, stating that it was part of their operational measures against individuals linked to FETO within the country. During these measures, one of the five detained individuals mentioned having a connection with Ibadoglu. Subsequently, a search was conducted at Ibadoglu‘s office, during which documents crucial to the case were discovered, leading to his detention. The authorities are currently continuing their investigations as part of the ongoing measures.
Tofig Yagublu, a member of the National Council of Democratic Forces, asserted that Gubad Ibadoglu‘s arrest was a consequence of his exposure of corruption scandals involving the Aliyevs. “The real reason for Gubad Ibadoglu’s arrest is the public organization AGTF (Azerbaijani Youth Education Fund), which he co-registered in London together with professor Jamil Hasanli and former ambassador Arif Shahmarli. Currently, the organization is in the process of formation and has not yet commenced its activities. The Supreme Corruptor holds illegal assets worth billions of dollars in Great Britain. He is afraid that the British government might confiscate these illegal assets and allocate them to the this organization, which intends to operate transparently and in the best interests of the Azerbaijani people.” Yagublu attributes the arrests and allegations against Ibadoglu to baseless accusations aimed at discrediting him, labelling them as products of a government characterized by robbery, lack of education, and a lack of intelligence.
Azadlig newspaper reports that political prisoner Alizamin Salayev, stated that he experienced significant ill-treatment in prison. Salayev was on a hunger strike for more than a hundred days in protest against his illegal arrest and fake accusations.
Meydan TV reported that on July 22, Nizameddin Ibadov, a veteran of the Second Karabakh War took his own life by setting himself on fire himself in the yard of his residence in Mammadli settlement, Absheron region. According to his relatives, the 33-year-old veteran had been under treatment at Republican Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 for some time before being discharged just two days prior to the incident. While the exact reasons behind his decision to commit suicide are not yet known, there are indications of potential distress during his time at the hospital. The day before his tragic act, Nizamaddin Ibadov had a conversation with journalist Nurlan Libre, in which he disclosed that he had experienced torture while he was being treated at the hospital. He recounted, “They tortured me. They didn’t let my father in at all. When I met my father, they would open my hand for 2-3 minutes, allowing us to talk and meet. But as soon as I returned upstairs, they would immediately close my hand. In other words, my father didn’t get to see anything either.” There exists a recorded conversation with the journalist, in which Ibadov disclosed further disturbing details, stating, “They tied the hands and feet of 4-5 people… In addition, there are people who have been kept there for 15 or 8 years for no reason.”
Another war veteran, Amin Akif oglu Babayev made two suicide attempts recently. On July 22, Amin, a resident of Azafli village in Tovuz, tried to end his life by ingesting medicine. Fortunately, doctors were able to save him. However, the following day, July 23, Amin attempted suicide again by cutting his arms. Relatives of Amin Babayev informed Meydan TV that the reason behind his desperate actions was the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Population’s failure to grant him a disability status. Despite having an iron prosthesis on his knee as a war veteran, Amin has been unable to obtain the disability recognition he rightfully deserves. This lack of acknowledgment has left him in distress and without the necessary support he needs for his condition.
During a meeting held at the Khatai District Court, a decision was made concerning the extension of the preventive detention measure imposed on the activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev. Both Hajiyev and his lawyer requested the cancellation of the arrest warrant. However, the decision reached during the meeting resulted in an extension of Hajiyev‘s detention period by 2 months and 10 days. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev had been arrested in December of the previous year and is facing multiple charges under various articles of the Criminal Code, including hooliganism (221.2.2), contempt of court (289.1), illegal entrepreneurship (192), money laundering (193-1), and forgery of official documents (320.1).
Governance and Corruption
On July 23, which marked National Press Day, a group of Azerbaijani journalists and activists collectively reached out to the governing bodies of the Council of Europe to express their profound concerns regarding the repercussions of the new media law, which came into effect in February 2022. The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe had previously raised objections in June 2022, stating that the “On Media” law contradicts the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, which safeguard the right to freedom of expression and media. Even before the law’s adoption, local experts had already voiced similar reservations. The Commission’s conclusion categorically stated that the law fails to meet the standards expected by the Council of Europe, making its application unacceptable for any member country. Since the implementation of this restrictive law, independent journalists have been barred from filming during events such as the demonstration in Saatli district on March 14, 2023, where people were demanding improvements in water supply, as well as the action in Söyudlü village, Gadabay, on June 20, 2023, addressing environmental concerns due to a gold deposit.
In their joint statement media representatives note that several state institutions have been unresponsive to information requests from journalists and media outlets not listed in the media register. In their petition, the signatories, including media representatives, journalists, media experts, and civil society activists, strongly urge the government of Azerbaijan to be reminded of its obligations as a member of the Council of Europe. They call for a revision of the “On Media” law to safeguard freedom of expression and media, avoiding any irreversible harm. If these concerns are not addressed adequately, the petition suggests the possibility of freezing Azerbaijan’s membership until the issues are resolved. The appeal has been directed to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, its Monitoring Committee, the human rights commissioner, and co-rapporteurs for Azerbaijan, signifying the seriousness and urgency of the matter at hand.
Director of the Baku Research Institute Altay Goyushov commented on the state of media in Azerbaijan, pointing out the concerning level of government control. Goyushov’s Facebook post: “Television in Azerbaijan is entirely in the hands of the government, leaving no room for independent or dissident voices to have their channels or express critical opinions on existing platforms. Similarly, the print media in Azerbaijan has faced the same fate, with no independent or dissident publications surviving due to the oppressive tactics employed by the authorities and the overwhelming influence of oil money over the years. As a result, the print media has become a tool of unconditional propaganda, serving the government’s narrative. Until 2009, there were independent and critical radio channels operating on FM waves in Azerbaijan. However, in a bid to ensure President Aliyev’s re-election for the third time, these radio stations were also forcibly closed down, leaving the radio waves as yet another platform for unconditional propaganda. In Azerbaijan, both domestic and foreign critical internet media face blockades, rendering them inaccessible without the use of a VPN. Simultaneously, the government has established numerous internet media outlets that lack readership and primarily focus on promoting praise, flattery, and falsehoods. Consequently, the internet media landscape in the country serves as a form of propaganda to a larger extent.”
According to Goyushov, social networks represent the only platform in Azerbaijan where independent and critical opinions can be expressed. However, even in this domain, the government has taken measures to stifle dissent. Individuals who dare to voice independent and critical views on social media face constant punishment and imprisonment. “The government resorts to using dishonest foreign partners, funded by oil money, to employ various blocking methods and prevent the spread of critical opinions. In addition to these tactics, discriminatory algorithms are implemented to suppress free speech, and agreements are made with social network management to curtail the reach of critics’ content. The government maintains an army of thousands of trolls whose purpose is to file complaints against critical content, initiate smear campaigns, and organize attacks on the writers themselves. On the other hand, an alarming number of propaganda accounts are created to disseminate fake news and inundate the internet with flattery and praise. While social network administrators in other regions often take strict actions against such malicious practices, the trolls supported by the Azerbaijani government operate with an unparalleled level of tolerance.”
July 25, 2023