State Department on Azerbaijan's Anti-Terror Efforts
Azerbaijan remains among counties that the State Department praises in its annual Country Reports on Terrorism (CRT) for actively working to "deter, detect, and defeat terrorist efforts to move people, money, and materials across its land and maritime borders" and within the region.
However, for the second time in a consecutive year, the authors also hint at efforts to leave political opponents and religious activists vulnerable to prosecution, by not determining what activities qualify as "terrorism" or "extremism," TURAN's Washington correspondent reports.
The 2020 CRT, released on Thursday, notes that there were "no reported terrorist incidents in Azerbaijan" last year.
It goes on to highlight that, law enforcement and security services historically have conducted operations to disrupt and prevent terror attacks, arrested and prosecuted suspected terrorists, and prosecuted returning Azerbaijanis suspected of joining or financing terrorist groups fighting outside Azerbaijan.
In the meantime, law enforcement and security agencies "continued to exhibit wide discretion in determining what activities qualify as "terrorism" or "extremism," leaving political opponents and religious activists vulnerable to prosecution, detention, and physical mistreatment."
"Such individuals have been especially vulnerable to physical abuse by the MIA's [Ministry of Internal Affairs'] organized crime unit," the authors noted, referring to the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and International Religious Freedom Report, which reflects abuses in Azerbaijan.
The move comes just two months after a court in Baku has sentenced a member of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Niyamaddin Ahmadov, to 13 years in prison after finding him guilty of financing terrorism -- a charge he and his supporters have rejected as "absurd." Ahmadov was detained in 2020 and initially found guilty of violating sanitary regulations introduced to stem the spread of the coronavirus. He was later charged with financing terrorism. Human rights groups recognize him as a political prisoner.
Overall, the State Department's latest annual Reports on Terrorism, details key developments in 2020 in the global fight against international terrorist groups.
"As the United States adapts its counterterrorism approach to keep pace with evolving threats, the CRT continues to serve as a valuable resource in assessing the global terrorism landscape," Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement
According to the report, Azerbaijan's law enforcement and security services "share information regarding terrorism matters among themselves and with regional and international partners."