Civil Rights Defenders condemn Rasul Jafarov`s arrest

On 2 August it came to Civil Rights Defenders attention that the Azeri journalist, human rights defender and Natalia Project bearer Rasul Jafarov had been arrested in Baku. He will be held in a pre-trial detention for up to three months. The charges against him are tax evasion, illegal commercial activity and abuse of authority.

"We are shocked and dismayed at what seems to be an attack on Rasul Jafarov for his activities as a human rights defender. Civil Rights Defenders call on the authorities in Azerbaijan to provide a safe environment for all human rights defenders that enables them to perform their important work", says Robert Hårdh, Executive Director at Civil Rights Defenders.

At this early stage it appears that the charges are related to Rasul Jafarov’s activities as chairman and founder of the Human Rights Club (HRC), an NGO which the Azerbaijan government has continually prevented from registering since its establishment in 2010 — a tactic that seems intended to hinder their work and silence their opposition to human rights abuses.

The arrest of Rasul Jafarov comes on the heels of the arrest earlier this week of fellow Azeri human rights defender Leyla Yunus. In May, Anar Mammadli, founder of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS), was sentenced to five years in prison on the same charges Rasul Jafarov is now being held on.

About Rasul Jafarov:
As the chairman of the HRC, Rasul Jafarov coordinated the “Sing for democracy” campaign which used Eurovision Song Contest to improve human rights awareness in Azerbaijan. During this massive pan-European contest, “Sing for Democracy” elicited significant international attention to human rights violations in Azerbaijan. In December 2012, “Sing for Democracy” was expanded and rebranded; “Art for Democracy,” which Rasul Jafarov continues to coordinate.

Additionally, Rasul Jafarov was responsible in the, “Expression Online Initiative,” which used the Internet Governance Forum in Baku, November 2012, a platform to monitor, protect and influence the exercise of freedoms in cyberspace. This campaign continues to expand internet freedoms by protecting online activists, streamlining and initiating new internet-freedom legislation, as well as practical solutions to protect internet rights.-0-

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