Center for National and International Studies
“Close relations between Azerbaijan and Israel serve the development of the two countries and peace and stability in the region…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
The trial of Avaz Zeynalli, head of Khural TV, was held at the Baku Court of Serious Crimes with the presence of journalists and human rights defenders who argue that Zeynalli was arrested on trumped-up charges. Journalist Elnur Shukurov said that while he was detained in the State Security Service, the employee of the General Prosecutor’s Office Mehman Humbatov, Deputy Prosecutor General Elchin Mammadov, and a person named Shahin repeatedly threatened him that his children would be kidnapped, and a criminal case would be opened against his brothers if he doesn’t collaborate with them to write a false statement against Avaz Zeynalli. Shukurov said that despite threats and intimidation, he refused to give false testimony against Zeynalli.
Exiled Journalist Afgan Mukhtarli reported that Malik Rzayev, a former immigrant who was arrested in Azerbaijan after being deported from Germany, was put in solitary confinement in prison, where he was severely tortured.
Lawyer Nemet Karimli said that he met with Alizamin Salayev, who has been on hunger strike for more than 50 days in protest against his illegal arrest. Karimli wrote: “Today, I met Alizamin, the chairman of the Salyan district branch of APFP, who was slandered and imprisoned on March 28, 2023. His weight dropped from 126 kg to 89 kg, his blood pressure fluctuates around 70, he walks with difficulty, and he was brought to the meeting with me by the employers of the prison as he was not able to walk. He expressed sincere thanks to everyone who asked him to stop the hunger strike but insisted on continuing. 3-4 days ago, in the middle of the night, his blood pressure dropped sharply, and he recovered only after the intervention of the doctor. He was complaining about the medical service in prison.”
Abuzar Soltanov, who protested the water shortage in Saatli, told Azadlig newspaper that he is experiencing difficulties with walking after being shot with a rubber bullet by the police during the rally. He says that the police shot him in the leg with a rubber bullet at close range. Despite the ongoing protests, the villagers’ water problem has not been solved, and as a result, farmlands have been damaged.
Governance and Corruption
The head of the Great Establishment Party, member of parliament Fazil Mustafa was injured in an attack in front of his house. According to the statement of the Prosecutor’s General’s Office, MP was shot in several places and was rushed to the hospital, where he at the moment receives treatment. Mustafa is known as a sharp critic of neighboring Iran. While the investigation has been launched, many speculations have been made on the possible reasons for the attack.
Member of the APFP Fuad Gahramanli argued that the terrorist act against the MP is a serious national security threat to Azerbaijan posed by Iran. Gahramanli’s Facebook post: “The assassination attempt against MP Fazil Mustafa is the continuation of the terrorist attack on our Embassy in Iran. This shows that there is a very serious national security threat to Azerbaijan and that the threat of terrorism, which can cause more serious consequences, is increasing. Azerbaijan is facing security threats from Iran, which conducts proxy wars in the Middle East, has a wide network of secret agencies, has sufficient experience and personnel potential to commit terrorist acts, and uses terrorism as a tool in its foreign policy. If we take into account that Iran’s military and political leaders repeatedly threatened Azerbaijan with regard to Israel, the military exercises held on our southern borders, and the terror committed against our Embassy was Tehran’s reaction to Azerbaijan-Israel cooperation, then we can assume that the terror against Fazil Mustafa was planned by the same perpetrator. Iran reacted to the opening of our Embassy in Israel with the participation of Azerbaijan’s foreign minister by targeting the deputy who spoke against Iran.”
Chairperson of Ali Karimli condemned the assassination attempt saying that there is a serious issue with public safety and that the government should not ignore recent cases of gun violence in public places. “Ilham Aliyev should pay attention to the growing criminal atmosphere in the country if he has time from talking behind the APF-Musavat government ages ago and falsifying recent history witnessed by millions. For a long time, guns have not been silenced in the capital of the country. The regime, specialized in hunting down dissidents, is still unable to fight real criminals. Today, MP Fazil Mustafa was shot with an automatic weapon near his house and received two gunshot wounds. It is good that his life is not in danger. We condemn this heinous crime and hope that the perpetrators will be found soon. I hope that the government will be interested in solving this crime. But criminals are rarely punished in this country. The government should do its job. The resources of the state should be mobilized not to crush independent and dissent voices but to fight real crime.”
Lawyer Agil Layij said that it is unacceptable to publicly condemn certain religious groups for the attack before the investigation is completed. “If the MPs had paid 0.1 percent of the attention given to the attack on the deputy, to the traitors who committed crimes in Tartar, if they would have had the courage to bring the criminals to justice, I am sure that there would not have been so many people benefiting from the atmosphere of impunity in the society, and their colleague would not have been shot. It is unacceptable to attribute the attack on Fazil Mustafa to religious people without accurate and correct information. Let’s not forget that Tartar victims have been condemned as traitors in this country for years.”
Azerbaijan finally opened its Embassy in Israel. Minister of Foreign Affairs Jeyhun Bayramov told journalists during the opening ceremony of the Embassy said that “establishing and development of close relations between Azerbaijan and another country should not worry any state”. Jabbarov added that close relations with Israel serve the development of the two countries and peace and stability in our region. The first ambassador of Azerbaijan to Israel, Mukhtar Mammadov, presented his credentials to the President of Israel.
Residents of the Saatli region again protested the severe water shortages. Faig Rzayev, a resident of Cholpu village, said that the water is blocked by artificial obstacles and directed to the farmlands of companies belonging to the president’s family. He added that the agricultural fields belonging to the farmers are badly affected due to aridification and drought. Because of the water crisis, a resident of Zardab committed suicide. 32-year-old Suleymanov Akbar Sabir oghlu, who could not irrigate his farmland due to water shortage, set himself on fire. He was admitted to a hospital in Baku with severe burn injuries.
Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Party (ADWP) Gubad Ibadoghlu shared statistics on corruption in Azerbaijan, saying that under the current government, the country has become one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Ibadoghlu: “The fastest development in Azerbaijan is in the field of corruption. During the past years, the highest growth in Azerbaijan was recorded in the field of corruption, while this period is also characterized as a decade of enrichment of the ruling family and its allies thanks to the embezzlement of the budget funds. Please note that in 2013, Azerbaijan was the 127th most corrupt country among 177 countries of the world in the corruption ranking of the Transparency International Organization. In 2023, it ranked 157th among 180 countries in the world. In recent years, innovative mechanisms and new approaches that serve the development of corruption have been applied in the country. So, in the first stage, they create conditions for officials to receive bribes. In the second stage, they arrest them for bribery, take their money and gold from their hands, and confiscate their property. In the third stage, they put them under house arrest, then sell their property to themselves, and finally, at the last stage, they release those officials to continue their corrupt activities. The authorities do all this under the name of fighting corruption.”
Baku Seaside Boulevard Office shared a statement saying that any event or public gathering planned to be held in Seaside National Park must be coordinated in advance with the Office. The statement raised questions, and many criticized it as an attempt to limit the freedom of assembly further.
March 31, 2023