Azerbaijan sentences activist ahead of European Games
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.”
Intigam Aliyev is one of the few human rights defenders in Azerbaijan who have provided legal assistance to the victims of politically motivated persecution.
Last week, on 16 April, Azerbaijani prisoner of conscience founder of the NGO Human Rights Club, Rasul Jafarov was sentenced to six-and-a-half years’ imprisonment on trumped-up charges. He was detained on 2 August 2014.
Amnesty International has named at least 20 prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan. The activists are currently languishing in prison or in detention awaiting trial following spurious charges ranging from fraud and embezzlement to abuse of drugs and even treason solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Amnesty International is calling for them all to be immediately and unconditionally released.
Azerbaijan will host the inaugural European Games from 12 to 28 June in the Capital city of Baku. Around 6,000 European athletes are expected to participate in the event.
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