[:en]A large group of Azerbaijani human rights defenders and activists appealed to the local and international community in connection with the increased pressure on critics of the government in the country.
The document notes that the authorities are using the COVID-19 pandemic to harass their critics. And after the events on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border in July this year, which were accompanied by numerous casualties, the authorities intensified repression against political opponents.
The escalation of tensions on the border triggered many thousands of street actions in Baku on July 14 in support of the territorial integrity of the country and the army.
However, a group of people who participated in the demonstration on the night of July 15 entered parliament without any resistance, which gave the police a reason to violently disperse the entire demonstration in front of the Milli Majlis building.
On the same day, at a government session, President Ilham Aliyev presented these events as a provocation of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan “with the aim of a coup d’etat.” After this speech by the President, mass arrests of representatives of the leadership and ordinary members of the party began.
Among those arrested are also representatives of other political organizations and public figures.
Most of those arrested were charged under article 186.2.1 (intentional destruction or damage to property, on a large scale), article 233 (organizing or actively participating in actions that violate public order), article 315.1 (resistance or use of the population against the police) of the Criminal Code. In addition, two leading PFPA members, Fuad Gahramanli and Mammad Ibrahim, were charged under Article 278 (violent seizure of power). Several other political activists were charged under Article 139-1.1 (violation of anti-epidemic, sanitary and hygienic and quarantine regimes). Among them was Mammad Ibrahim’s son, Mehdi Ibrahimov, and the PFPA activist Mohammed Imanli.
In total, at least 37 people were prosecuted in connection with the July events. 36 of them were taken into custody pending trial, and one was placed under house arrest.
Of those brought to criminal responsibility, 17 people represent the PFPA.
At least 27 people were sentenced to administrative arrest, including 10 members of the Popular Front Party. “The procedural rights of political and public activists arrested on trumped-up charges are grossly violated, and many of them are not allowed to meet with their lawyers or relatives. There are also reports that many of these individuals have been subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment. It is obvious that the government of Azerbaijan, taking advantage of the restrictive regime associated with the pandemic, is trying to completely eliminate its critics and political opponents, and finally suppress freedom of speech,” the appeal says.
The authors of the document express concern about the significant deterioration of the human rights situation in the country and call on the European Union, the Council of Europe, the UN, the OSCE and other intergovernmental structures, international human rights organizations and progressive governments to help end political repression in Azerbaijan. “We demand that the Azerbaijani authorities immediately release the imprisoned innocent people.
We also call on the progressive public of the country not to remain indifferent to what is happening, to use all legal means to raise their voice in protest against repressions,” the appeal says.
The document was signed by Leyla Yunus, Intigam Aliyev, Yalchin Imanov, Akif Gurbanov, Gunay Ismayilova, Samir Kazimli, Rovshan Hajibeyli, Sevinj Vagifgizi, Emin Huseynov, Fuad Hasanov, Alovsat Sadygly, Namizad Safarov, Eldaniz Guliyev, Hilal Mammadov, Avtandil Mammadov, Rashid Hajili, Alaif Hasanov, Zafar Ahmedov, Saigyn Rustamli, Zaur Akbar, Tazakhan Miralamli, and Rufat Safarov.