The ECHR has declared unlawful the criminal prosecution of the theologian Sardar Babayev

The ECHR has declared unlawful the criminal prosecution of the theologian Sardar Babayev

On February 1, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) announced a decision in the case of Shiite theologian Sardar Babayev.  This religious figure preached Friday sermons at the Masally mosque.  In February 2017, he was arrested because the law prohibits preaching to persons who have received Islamic religious education abroad.

On July 3, 2017, the court sentenced him to 3 years in prison, finding him guilty of violating the requirements of conducting religious ceremonies (Articles 168-1.3 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan). The higher authorities upheld the verdict.

The defense filed a complaint with the ECHR, asking to recognize the violation of Babayev's rights under Articles 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment), 5.3 (right to freedom and security), 6.2 (presumption of innocence), 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion), 10 (freedom of expression), 11 (freedom meetings and associations) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In particular, Babayev's imprisonment in an iron cage in the Court of Appeal was considered inhuman treatment. In addition, the defense pointed to his unjustified detention during the investigation and sentencing to prison.

The ECHR recognized the violation of Babayev's rights under Articles 3, 5.3 and 9 and decided to pay him compensation in the amount of 6,000 euros for moral damage and 2,500 euros for court costs.

Babayev's lawyer Javad Javadov expressed satisfaction with the ECHR's decision, noting the importance of recognizing the violation of Babayev's rights under Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion.)

"The current decision of the ECHR is of a precedent nature and means that citizens in Azerbaijan should not be prosecuted for violating the requirements of conducting religious rites," the lawyer said.

He recalled that in 2023 Babayev was also sentenced to 17 years in prison in the case of treason. The lawyer drew attention to the fact that Babayev was arrested against the background of the aggravation of Azerbaijani-Iranian relations in the autumn of 2021 and expressed hope that the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan, when considering the cassation appeal, will consider the arguments of the defense and eliminate violations of Babayev's rights. If the complaint is not satisfied, the defense will appeal to the ECHR.

It should be noted that human rights activists recognized Sardar Babayev as a political prisoner.

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