Human Rights Watch on gross violations of rights in Azerbaijan in 2017

Washington / 18.01.18 / Turan: A well-known human rights organization Human Rights Watch unveiled its annual report on the state of rights and freedoms in the world in 2017.

In the section devoted to Azerbaijan, it is said that the Azerbaijani government has stepped up its struggle with critics. The courts sentenced at least 25 journalists and political and youth activists to long periods of imprisonment on politically motivated, unfair trials. Dozens more were detained or under criminal investigation, subjected to harassment and travel bans or were forced to flee the country.

In January, the courts sentenced 18 people, including prominent theologian Tale Bagirzade, to long periods of imprisonment after a trial where torture and ill-treatment of detainees were reported.

Also in January, the Baku court imprisoned youth activist Elgiz Gahraman for five and a half years on fictitious drug charges.

After the arrest, the police for a long time did not inform relatives of his place and for several days denied access to a lawyer. During the trial, Gahraman said that the police beat him and threatened him with sexual violence to force him to confess to the possession of drugs. The authorities did not investigate these allegations.

Three members of the opposition Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (APFP) were convicted during the year. In July, the court convicted Faig Amirli, the financial director of the closed opposition newspaper Azadlig, of inciting religious hatred and tax evasion.

Fuad Ahmadli, a social networking activist, was sentenced to four years in prison on charges of misusing personal data. In January, the Baku court convicted him of one PFPA activist Fuad Gahramanli for 10 years in prison, accusing him of inciting religious and ethnic hatred for publishing criticism of the government on Facebook.

In May, the authorities arrested the deputy chairman of the PFPA Gozal Bayramli, who accused him of smuggling. Dozens of journalists and activists convicted in politically motivated trials remain in prison. Among them, the leader of the opposition movement "Republican Alternative" (REAL) Ilgar Mammadov.

He remains in prison, despite the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in 2014, which found his detention illegal.

The following journalists remain in custody: Seymour Hazi and Nijat Aliyev, youth activists Ilkin Rustemzade, Bayram Mamedov and Murad Adilov; and opposition politicians Mamed Ibrahim and Asif Yusifli.

None of the verdicts to activists and journalists released in the last two years has been abolished, including restrictions on leaving the country for investigative journalist Khadija Ismailova and attorney Intigam Aliyev.

In February, police detained 12 relatives, including two-year-old niece Orduhan Teymurkhan, a video blogger and activist of social networks living in the Netherlands.

Teymurkhan recorded and published a call from a Baku policeman who detained his relatives. The next day the authorities released all but the elder brother of Teymurkhan and nephew, arresting them for 30 days for not submitting to the police.

In October, the parliament adopted amendments prohibiting lawyers outside the Bar Association from representing their clients, which could further limit the number of lawyers involved in political affairs.

The authorities continued to use fictitious tax and other criminal charges against critical journalists and bloggers.

Famous blogger Mehman Huseynov was sentenced to two years in prison for allegedly slandering the police.

For two and a half years, journalist Afgan Sadygov, editor of the AzelTV website, was convicted.

In May, journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was kidnapped in Tbilisi and illegally brought to Azerbaijan, where he was accused of illegal crossing of the border and smuggling.

Also in May, the police arrested the director of the channel "Channel 13" Aziza Orujova.

In August, director of the Turan agency Mehman Aliyev was arrested on false charges.

In May, the government blocked access to a number of opposition sites, including the Azerbaijani service of Radio Liberty, the Azadlig newspaper and the Internet resource of Meidan TV.

The Azerbaijani authorities continued punitive measures against NGOs, making their work impossible.

A number of NGO leaders still have a ban on leaving the country.

The US, the European Union and other international partners of Azerbaijan continued to criticize Baku, but failed to effectively influence the situation with human rights.

The EU was unable to secure the release of journalists and activists illegally arrested and put an end to pressure on NGOs.

In October, the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers adopted an unprecedented decision on the procedure against Azerbaijan for failing to implement the European Court's decision in the case of Ilgar Mammadov.

Also in October, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted two resolutions calling on Azerbaijan to cease its constant harassment of critics. -02D-

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