IBAHRI calls on Azerbaijan Bar Association to reinstate human rights lawyer immediately

London/23.11.17/Turan: The International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) calls on the Bar Association of the Republic of Azerbaijan to reinstate human rights lawyer Yalchin Imanov immediately and cancel all disciplinary proceedings against him. Mr Imanov was disbarred on Monday 20 November, seemingly as a direct consequence of carrying out his professional duties.

Mr Imanov had been involved in the representation of high-profile clients including journalists Khadija Ismayilova and Nijat Aliyev, as well as political opposition figures such as Mamed Ibrahim, Fuad Gahramanli and Murad Adilov. He stands accused of encouraging his clients to spread libellous statements and spreading false reports that prison officers tortured two of his clients in Gobustan prison, Azerbaijan. The request to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Mr Imanov came from the Acting Chief of the Prison Service of the Ministry of Justice of Azerbaijan, Ogtay Mammadov.

Disbarment prevents Mr Imanov from representing his clients and fully carrying out his legal duties.

Mr Imanov denies all allegations made against him, declaring in a statement addressed to the Disciplinary Commission of the Bar Association of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and seen by the IBAHRI, that: 'I have not committed any disciplinary violation... I carry out my advocate activity in full compliance with the law of the Republic of Azerbaijan'.

IBAHRI Co-Chair Ambassador (ret.) Hans Corell commented: 'A key function of an independent bar association is to protect the interests of legal professionals. Unfortunately, protection and guarantees for lawyers in Azerbaijan are seriously lacking. Once again, through its actions, we learn that the Bar Association of the Republic of Azerbaijan appears not to be an independent institution, but rather an arm of government. Bar members representing clients who raise important human rights concerns and speak out about violations inflicted by state officials are frequently subjected to biased disciplinary proceedings that result in disbarment.'

He added: 'The IBAHRI sees the disbarment of Mr Imanov as yet another attempt by state authorities to try and silence human rights defenders and legal professionals. Mr Imanov should not be punished for carrying out his professional obligations. Rather, the Bar Association of the Republic of Azerbaijan should adhere to the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which state that lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions. We call for Mr Imanov's immediate reinstatement.' -0-

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