Center for National and International Studies



“The absence of a single political prisoner in the list of those pardoned means that the Azerbaijani authorities do not intend to abandon their repressions or make concessions in the field of human rights…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

On May 24, the petition to replace the detention of Alasgar Mammadli, the imprisoned founder of “Toplum” internet television, with house arrest was not granted. This information was provided by his lawyer, Agil Layij. According to him, Mammadli‘s health is poor, and he needs to be examined and treated in a hospital environment, which is not possible in detention. “Unfortunately, the Khatai District Court did not grant our petition”, said Layij. A petition for his release to house arrest was reviewed and denied in a hearing presided over by Judge Bakhtiyar Mammadov at the Khatai District Court. Relatives of Alasgar Mammadli report that he has serious health issues, including a tumor in his thyroid gland that is growing in size. Mammadli states that he is already having difficulty breathing. Although the Ministry of Internal Affairs promised to take measures regarding his health, no steps have been taken apart from a general examination.

Tajira Mammadzade, the sister of activist Sahib Mammadzade, who serves as the head of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AXCP) Dashkasan branch, expressed concern over her brother’s disappearance for the past four days. She stated that there has been no communication from him, and they have learned that he has been transferred to the Kurdakhani detention center. “Tajira urges the penitentiary service to facilitate Sahib’s phone call,” reported Azadlıg newspaper. Sahib Mammadzade was apprehended by the Goygol police on drug-related charges in March of this year.

Famil Khalilov, a public activist and first-degree disabled person detained for criticizing the government, has started a hunger strike. The information was confirmed by the activist’s wife, Kichikkhanim Khalilova. She stated that the reason for her husband’s hunger strike was the Court of Appeal’s rejection of his petition for house arrest. On May 22, under the chairmanship of Judge Farid Ayyubov, the Baku Court of Appeal did not grant the appeal against the Binagadi District Court’s decision not to release Famil Khalilov to house arrest. “He had told us that if the court did not grant his appeal for house arrest, he would go on a hunger strike. He announced at the court yesterday that he had started the hunger strike. Our lawyer informed us about it. Today, when I spoke to Famil on the phone, I asked if he had eaten. He said, ‘No, I am on a hunger strike,'” said Khalilova.

Famil Khalilov was born with cerebral palsy and is a first-degree disabled person. He has made critical posts about the Azerbaijani government on social media. Famil Khalilov, who applied for political asylum in Sweden, was readmitted last year and was detained on May 4 of this year. He has been charged under Article 234.4.3 of the Criminal Code (illegal trafficking of a large amount of narcotic substances), and a preventive measure of detention has been chosen against him. According to his relatives, Famil Khalilov was detained precisely for criticizing the government. If the court confirms the charges against him, the activist faces a prison sentence of 5 to 12 years.

The journalist Nargiz Absalamova will be held in detention for nearly another month on the grounds of an “ongoing investigation.” The investigation period for journalist Nargiz Absalamova, linked to the “Abzas Media case,” has been prolonged by 22 days. During proceedings at the Khatai District Court, the judge approved the request from the investigative body to extend the detention period. This marks the second extension of Absalamova‘s detention. Since February of this year, the detention periods of five other media representatives associated with this case have also been prolonged. Lawyers for the journalists have asserted that the extension was requested by the investigation without presenting substantial reasons, yet the court approved it despite the absence of valid grounds.

Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AXCP) Ali Karimli called on the government to release political prisoners ahead of Republic Day. Karimli: “Our Independence and Republic Day on May 28 can also be an opportunity to open up new prospects for our country. The fact that there are around 300 political prisoners in Azerbaijani prisons is not only an injustice and a violation of rights, but also a shackle holding back our country’s development. A country with so many political prisoners cannot progress or gain influence in the international arena. Foreign investment will not come to a country with nearly 300 political prisoners, and the well-being of the people and the security of the state cannot be ensured. Such a country is inevitably ruled by fear of the baton and repression. However, this can only be sustained to a certain extent. Such governance can only harm the people and can only be temporary. May 28 is an opportunity to pardon political prisoners. If only the Azerbaijani authorities could appreciate this and not let another opportunity slip away for the country.”

President Ilham Aliyev signed a pardon decree on May 25, granting clemency to 154 individuals. The notable absence of any political prisoners’ names on this list has caused disappointment. Rufat Safarov, the executive director of the human rights organization “Defense Line” and a prominent human rights defender, voiced disappointment regarding the exclusion of political prisoners from the pardon list. “The head of state, Ilham Aliyev, signed a pardon decree. Sixty-three convicts have been released. I paid attention to the list and did not find the name of a single person recognized as a political prisoner by local and international human rights organizations. It is very unfortunate,” said the human rights defender.

Member of the AXCP Fuad Gahramanli also commented on the pardon decree, arguing that by not including the political prisoners, the government gives a clear message about its future intentions. Gahramanli: “The fact that yesterday’s pardon decree signed by Ilham Aliyev did not include the name of any political prisoner not only reflects the government’s stance towards political prisoners but also clarifies the direction of the country’s foreign policy course in the near future. The most frequently mentioned issue in the tension between Azerbaijan and the West over the past year has been the unprecedented increase in the number of political prisoners in the country and the demand for the release of unjustly imprisoned individuals. The insistence of the West at the highest levels suggests that as long as the situation in this area does not change and the Azerbaijani authorities do not take a step back, it will not be possible to resolve the tension in relations. Therefore, yesterday’s pardon decree primarily expresses the response to this demand from the West. Although such pardon decrees usually do not solve the problem of political prisoners, the names of 2-3 political prisoners were typically included in the list of those pardoned. However, the absence of a single political prisoner in the list of those pardoned this time means that the Azerbaijani authorities do not intend to abandon their repressions or make the concessions in the field of human rights that are being demanded of them. This indicates that no agreement has been reached in recent negotiations between the Azerbaijani authorities and the West, so the tension in relations will continue to escalate, and we will likely witness harsher statements in the future.”

May 28, 2024