Anar Mammadli: Azeri government is trying to imitate in the process of integration to Europe

(Chairman of Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies center, prisoner of coincidence Anar Mammadli who currently is kept at Baku Investigation Jail answered the questions of “Turan” information agency through his advocates).

Question: Do you have any complaints?

Answer: I do not have any serious complaints about that. The only thing is about not being able to watch world cup live. According to jail rules, television is available only 14 hours during a day.

Q: You applied to appellate about Baku Grave Crimes Court sentence of yours. Do you have any hope that your complaint will be provided?

A: We agreed with advocates that though the case is politically motivated and unfounded we should not make scandal, instead we should create a “condition” to other side to expose themselves. To my mind, we reached our aim. In fact, the indictment was repeated with slight edits. Thus, the court gave its contribution to the union of Chief Prosecutor, Tax, Finance Ministry and Council of State Support to NGOs' and to the discrimination local election monitoring. I would like to note that according to my claim, administrative court looked at the case about the act removing from evidences list that was prepared about EMDS and Volunteers International Coorporation public union’s projects, grant projects and financial reports. We will raise our claims about these organizations in the next tribunals. Minsitry of Taxes, Ministry of Finance and Council of State Support for NGOs are involved in this case illegally, the people who represent these organizations do not have a right to do an evaluation about me, EMDS and VIC.  However, these organizations did not only the evaluation, but the act that charges us with dealing with illegal business and avoiding taxes. The investigation kept going on according this document and now we are in the court with these three organizations. The “clever” and “experienced” representative experts of these organizations think that because of not getting a registration from Ministry of Justice the finance that was spared for EMDS and VIC should be considered as illegal business activity. This is either non-analogue political decision or non-analogue illiteracy. First of all, Ministry of Justice did not register our grant deliberately and maliciously. For example, all the grants during 2013 were shown in the letter from Ministry of Justice. Secondly, if the grant is not registered, Ministry of Justice can turn punish administratively. Or let us see the comments of one of these organizations. It is written in the act that, grant project not getting a registration from Ministry of Justice it should be taxed. To come with such a conclusion you should be either illiterate or biased. Or let us see the charges one of the victims towards us. These people did not know that they are victims in this case and they did not have any complaints. However, the court known the biased attitude of investigation still did not have a justice side. In conclusion, according to Azerbaijani court system our election monitoring activities are illegal business activities. That’s why we appellate about Baku Grave Crimes Court and we will fight for the union of civil society in Azerbaijan. Now our court is not only about EMDS it is about election monitoring and freedom of association as well. We will fight with an honor.

 Q:The court sentence about you was after Azerbaijan started chairmanship at the Committee of Ministers at Council of Europe. Some experts were expecting that after having a chairmanship, the political pressures will be reduced. Did you have these expectations as well?

A: Honestly, I do not think that Azerbaijani government respects European Union and OSCE. That’s why I do not believe in big changes at human rights, political freedom and democratic institutions sphere. Although the attitude of European Union and OSCE is not adequate towards Azerbaijan government’s rude behavior to human rights, it is not a secret that gradually we will get a place in the block together with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus in OSCE field. Secondly, I do not think that Azerbaijani government is satisfied with chairmanship and the government does not use it as an internal propaganda. It is like the government sees the chairmanship as a reluctant and careful mission.

Generally, Azerbaijan government is trying to imitate in the process of integration to Europe. Another example of this can be our participation at European Union Eastern Partnership. Although we joined the process in 2009, we did not get any significant results. Instead, the government carries out sometimes open, sometimes secret propaganda against the integration to Europe. I regret to say that, the number of NGOs who are officially opponents of the government’s policy of integration to Europe, is decreasing in the result of local authorities pressures on civil society.

Q: The court decided to arrest executive director of EMDS Bashir Suleimanli along with you. How the activities of EMDS are going to be now? How the preparation of EMDS is going to be about next municipality and parliamentary elections?

A: The arrest of Bashir Suleimanli was quite unexpected for me. Because both his and Elnur Mammadov’s name are in the charges act only for 6 months in 2013. Actually, the main attention was on me on that act, so I did not expect him to get arrested. Secondly, Bashir has 2 children who are 2 and 4 years old, as well as, he had a quite serious car accident. In the recent 8 years he had several operations in his leg and he is still suffering from the pain when he is walking and when the weather is cold. We will raise motions about these in the next courts.

About the EMDS’s activities after arrests, two of our board members are in the prison and our colleagues are doing public campaign for us to get free. However, I asked them to call EMDS’s general meeting and to create a new structure. Currently, it needs to hold the processes going on in European Human Rights Court that EMDS applied before. And our arrests should not stop that. At the same time EMDS is the member of three big international NGOs in Europe like, European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations, European Platform for Democratic Elections, Eastern Partnership Countries civil society forum. We had active works in three organizations and we will continue to contribute. In terms of next elections, the crime case towards us showed that the government is not going to tolerate to local elections monitoring. The things that Azerbaijani government did show that they hate local election monitoring. For this, first of all government should break the restrictions about political parties, NGO, media and citizen groups free participation at elections.

But one matter is that, if Azerbaijani government put pressures on the civil society which promotes transparency in elections, it already shows that there is no longer democratic political environment.  It is already not a standard of OSCE or European Union country, in another way monitoring of elections is impossible in this restricted condition along with participation at elections, voter turnout and election competition.-0-

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