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Azerbaijan

    June 26, 2015

    Azerbaijan must immediately and unconditionally release all government critics unfairly imprisoned if the European Games are to leave a positive legacy, Amnesty International said today ahead of the closing ceremony on Sunday.

    A human rights crackdown in the run up to the Games saw journalists, lawyers, youth activists and opposition politicians harassed, intimidated and jailed on trumped-up charges by the repressive government of President Ilham Aliyev.

    “The crude attempt to create a ‘criticism free zone’ around the Games by jailing and intimidating critics and banning international journalists and human rights organisations, has backfired severely,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Programme Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    “International media coverage of the crackdown has held a mirror up to Azerbaijan and showed the world that the country has something very shameful it wants to hide.”

    June 10, 2015

    Press conference on media and NGO crackdown in Azerbaijan cancelled,but findings released today

    Amnesty International have been forced to cancel a planned visit to Azerbaijan after being told by the government at the last minute that the mission should be postponed until after the European Games.

    The visit, which was intended to launch a briefing – Azerbaijan: the Repression Games. The voices you won’t hear at the first European Games – was cancelled after communication was received late yesterday afternoon from the Azerbaijan Embassy in London stating that “Azerbaijan is not in a position to welcome the Amnesty mission to Baku at the present time” and suggesting that any visit should be postponed until after the Games.

    April 22, 2015

    The sentencing of a human rights lawyer and outspoken government opponent in Azerbaijan to seven and a half years in jail on forged charges shows the authorities’ desperate attempt to silence all critics ahead of the start of the European Games, said Amnesty International.

    Intigam Aliyev, head of the NGO Legal Education Society, was sentenced to seven and a half years on charges of tax avoidance, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of power.

    “Intigam Aliyev is the latest victim of a concerted campaign by authorities in Azerbaijan to sweep all of the country’s problems under the carpet as they prepare to host the largest European sports event in less than two months. The message is: Tell the world about our problems and you will be punished,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    “The only ‘crime’ Intigam Aliyev has committed is to defend the human rights of his fellow citizens. He should have never been jailed in the first place and must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

    March 19, 2015

    The release of two prisoners of conscience today is a positive move, but with 20 others behind bars, it is little more than a tokenistic gesture to appease critics in the run up to the European Games, said Amnesty International.

    Bashir Suleymanli and Orkhan Eyyubzade, both outspoken critics of President Ilham Aliyev and the Azerbaijani political regime, have been released today as part of the presidential pardon announced yesterday.    

    “This is heartening news, but what about other prisoners who are still behind bars in Azerbaijan for no real crime but criticising the regime? The Azeri authorities give with one hand and take with the other. Only two days ago, the Azerbaijani Court imprisoned the brother of an outspoken political opposition leader for six years on trumped up charges,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of the Europe and Central Asia team.

    March 13, 2015

    The government of Azerbaijan must comply with international demands and immediately set free prominent opposition leader, Ilgar Mammadov, after the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe made a second call demanding his release, said Amnesty International. He was sentenced to seven years in jail on trumped up, politically-motivated charges more than a year ago.

    The Azerbaijani authorities have ignored several requests for Mammadov’s release by the Council of Europe following a European Court of Human Rights ruling that he had been arrested without any evidence and that the actual purpose of his detention had been to silence or punish him for criticising the government.

    “President Ilham Aliyev had the audacity to stand before the Council of Europe last year and declare that freedom of expression, association and assembly are assured in Azerbaijan. These have proven to be empty words as his government has continued to openly defy the European Court of Human Rights by refusing to release Ilgar Mammadov,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Europe and Central Asia Programme.

    March 03, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 4 March 2015

    Threats, physical violence and the imprisonment of government critics have become the hallmark of the Azerbaijan regime as the country prepares to host the first European Games, said Amnesty International in a new report released today, 100 days before the opening ceremony.

    Guilty of Defending Rights: Azerbaijan’s human rights defenders and activists behind bars highlights the mounting persecution of government critics, detained under false charges, beaten and threatened and deprived of urgent medical care and lawyers.

    “No-one should be fooled by the glitz and glamour of the international show Azerbaijan is putting on to portray a squeaky-clean international reputation and attract foreign business. Its authorities are among the most repressive in Europe and would certainly be on the medal winning podium if prizes were on offer for the number of activists and rights defenders behind bars,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.  

    December 05, 2014

    Today’s court order authorizing two months of pre-trial detention for the well-known Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova is just the latest move to silence independent media voices in the country, Amnesty International said.

    “This move has all the hallmarks of another blatant attempt to gag free media in Azerbaijan – Khadija Ismayilova is one of the last remaining independent voices in the country,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “Today’s detention order comes hot on the heels of a long series of attempts to silence her. The Azerbaijan authorities must stop this harassment of journalists just for doing their jobs.”

    Khadija Ismayilova, who reports for Radio Free Europe and other outlets, has been an outspoken government critic and has published several articles exposing corruption and human rights violations.

    She faces the unexplained charges of “inciting someone to attempt suicide”. If found guilty, she could face three to seven years of imprisonment.

    July 30, 2014

    The persecution of human rights activists continues unabated in Azerbaijan, in spite of the obligations the country committed to as a member of Council of Europe and currently a chair of its decision making body, the Committee of Ministers, Amnesty International said today.  

    The latest human rights defender to be targeted by the Azerbaijani authorities is Leyla Yunus who was detained today on her way to a press conference in the capital Baku. Her husband Arif Yunus was also briefly detained while visiting her in the Baku prosecutor’s office.
     
    “Leyla Yunus is yet another independent voice in Azerbaijan who, for a long time, the government has tried to silence through threats and intimidation. Failing to achieve this they have now resorted to trumped up charges and detention in order to punish her for criticising the government,” said Natalia Nozadze, Amnesty International’s researcher on Azerbaijan.

    March 14, 2014

    Azerbaijan should immediately and unconditionally release two political leaders who have been behind bars for more than a year on fabricated charges, Amnesty international said.

    On 17 March, the Shaki District Court is expected to announce the verdict against Tofig Yagublu and Ilgar Mammadov – two prisoners of conscience who were arrested more than a year ago after they observed riots in the northern city of Ismayili.

    “The authorities in Azerbaijan seem to stop at nothing to crush dissent. All Tofig and Ilgar did was visit Ismayili to observe and report on these events. They are being punished simply as critics of the government,” said Denis Krivosheev, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    Tofig Yagublu is an independent Azeri journalist and the deputy chair of the opposition Musavat party and Ilgar Mammadov is leader of the Azeri opposition group REAL. If convicted, Tofig Yagublu and Ilgar Mammadov face up to 12 years in prison.

    December 17, 2013

    The Azerbaijani authorities must ensure a prompt and fair trial for the chairman of a well-respected election watchdog who was arrested yesterday, Amnesty International said as European leaders signed a major energy deal in the capital Baku.

    A Baku court has ordered that Anar Mammadli, head of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS), serve three months of pre-trial detention pending his trial on charges of “illegal enterprise”, “abuse of authority” and tax evasion.

    EMDS was investigated by the authorities after it documented widespread electoral violations during the October presidential poll, in which Ilham Aliyev was controversially re-elected for a third term.

    “Anar Mammadli has championed democracy and human rights for years in Azerbaijan, despite persistent pressure by the authorities to silence him and his colleagues,” said Denis Krivosheev, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director at Amnesty International.

    November 13, 2013

    The Azerbaijani authorities must halt their crackdown on freedom of expression, Amnesty International urged today as a journalist and a writer who criticized the government were jailed on trumped-up charges.

    "Azerbaijan's ruthless and relentless attack on any dissenting voices in the media continues apace with these shameful convictions and jail sentences, which appear to be based on offences fabricated by the prosecution," said John Dalhuisen of Amnesty International.

    Rashad Ramazanov, a writer and blogger who spoke out against the authorities in his posts on Facebook and YouTube, was sentenced to nine years in prison on dubious drug charges.

    Also today, pro-opposition newspaper editor Sardar Alibeyli was handed a four-year prison sentence on charges of "hooliganism".

    "Rashad Ramazanov and Sardar Alibeyli are prisoners of conscience, jailed solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and they must be immediately and unconditionally released," said John Dalhuisen.

    October 08, 2013

    Harassment, intimidation, ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests, fabricated charges and unfair trials are all part of the arsenal the Azerbaijani authorities are employing in a downward spiral of oppression in the run up to the 9 October 2013 presidential elections, said Amnesty International.

    “With new arrests of civil society activists reported almost daily, it’s hard to keep up with the sheer number and the speed at which dissenters are being persecuted at the moment,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director. “The persecution is so widespread and frequent it’s difficult to assess just how bad the current situation really is.”

    “We have already adopted no fewer than 14 people as prisoners of conscience. These people are currently behind bars solely for expressing their views or taking peaceful action.”

    May 15, 2013

    The Azerbaijani authorities must not use the upcoming presidential election as a pretext to silence critical voices and meaningful debate, Amnesty International said following a move to extend criminal defamation laws to the internet.

    On 14 May, the Azerbaijani Parliament approved an amendment to the country’s defamation law to impose hefty fines and prison sentences for anyone convicted of online slander or insults. The new legislation constitutes a further attack of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.

    According to the state news agency APA, those found guilty of slander face a fine of up to 500 Azeri manat (US$637), corrective labour of up to one year or jail time of up to six months. The punishment for an online “insult” is even harsher – fines of up to 1,000 Azeri manat, one year of corrective labour or imprisonment of up to six months.

    This is just the latest in ever-more restrictive measures – including actions to muzzle mainstream media outlets and the introduction of harsher punishment for peaceful protesters – ahead of October’s election.

    March 13, 2013

    The Azerbaijani authorities must ensure a prompt and fair retrial after a new, impartial, investigation of independent journalist Avaz Zeynali, Amnesty International said after a Baku court sentenced him to nine years in prison in an unfair trial on charges that appear to have been politically motivated.

    The court should also strongly consider his release pending the retrial. Under international law anyone held on a criminal charge is entitled to a fair trial within a reasonable time or conditional release. Avaz Zeynalli has already spent 16 months in detention while his trial was ongoing.

    “The trial against Avaz Zeynalli was deeply flawed. There are good reasons to believe that Zeynalli’s prosecution and conviction were politically motivated,” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director at Amnesty International.

    On 12 March a Baku court for grave crimes found the editor of the Khural newspaper guilty of bribery, extortion by threats, failure to implement a court decision and tax evasion. He was arrested on charges of blackmail and extortion on 28 October 2011 and has remained in detention ever since.

    March 11, 2013

    The disappearance of one of the organizers of a peaceful protest against the deaths of several young conscripts allegedly as a result of hazing – a violent initiation ceremony - by the Azerbaijani military is the latest in a string of actions by the authorities to crackdown on dissent, Amnesty International said today.

    Ilkin Rustamzade was detained on 9 March and has not been seen since. Three of the other organizers were arrested before the demonstration in a sting operation on 8 March. Police claim to have found drugs and incendiary devices in the homes of Mahammad Azizov, Bakhtiyar Guliyev and Shahin Novruzlu.

    All three were forced to appear on state television reading pre-prepared confessions, prompting fears that they have been tortured. They face long prison sentences if convicted.

    The peaceful demonstration, which took place on Saturday in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, was broken up by police with rubber bullets and water cannon.

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