Azerbaijan and Its Political Prisoners

There is now some movement in the Azerbaijani opposition. „Meydan TV“ broadcasts from Berlin via satellite directly to many viewers in the country, the Council of European Azerbaijani has been created some weeks ago, and only on 25th May, 2013, the new coordinating Council has been set up in Azerbaijan itself. There are now working more people for another Azerbaijan than ever, a country which has not yet the standards of Rule of Law as it should be the case in Council of Europe Member States, or in recipient states of EU taxpayers‘ money in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and in the Eastern Partnership. One thing is very clear: The people behind all this know Europe very well, and they all appreciate that they can move here freely, that they can say and read what they want. This is why they are all in favour of what is not yet achieved by Azerbaijan..namely Euro-Atlantic Integration and a strongly felt step in the direction of the European Union and the Council of Europe. And they are in favour of ending the autocratic system, corruption and a state-run replacement of the Rule of Law.

More than 3000 people from all European countries have signed recently a petition, an appeal, on political prisoners in the country. We publish here this petition, which went to Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign and Secutiy Policy and Vice President of the EU Commission, as well as some relevant staff of the EEAS (European External Action Service) including her cabinet, as well as to around 130  members of the European Parliament – those from the EURONEST Delegation (covering the Eastern Partnership between the EU and the European CIS countries, inclujding Azerbaijan) and from the Delegation for the South Caucasus, not to forget the OSCE, ODIHR and some Council of Europe addressees. We know that this is only the beginning. The people behind this Council want a stronger anchoring in Europe and its institutions, and they want to anchor the country for „the time after“ the present regime. Because  Council of Europe member state, an ENP recipient and a member of the Eastern Partnership can – and must – be viewed and reviewed permanently, and there is no domestic policy any longer when this degree of involvement (and also trade) is achieved.

So, maybe a bit longer as usual, please read here the full text of this Petition. Its importance lies also towards the Council of Erope which has recently rejected a motion of the Rapporteur, Mr. Christoph Strässer, Member of the German Bundestag where he is the Human Rights spokesman for Human Rights of the Social Democratic Party. Mr. Strässer should investigate on behalf of the Council of Europe, but he was refused to enter Azerbaijan. So far a „transparent system“ which should be applicable for this country. And this report clearly was defeated with the massive help of Baku’s „caviar diplomacy“. All this is unique in Europe – and goes perfectly with Belarus‘ Lukashenka or Ukraine’s Yanukovich and his selecive justice towards former ministers and the prime minister of his country.

Hans-Jürgen Zahorka
Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal
AAMBS – Avropa Azerbaycanlilari Milli Birlik Shurasi
NUEA – National Union of the European Azerbaijani
Avropa Azerbaycanlilari Milli Birlik Shurasi
National Union of the European Azerbaijani
Basel / Switzerland, May 17, 2013

Petition of the National Unity Council of European Azerbaijanis to International Organizations concerning political prisoners and political pressure in Azerbaijan

[The remarks in brackets […] are inserted by the editor,]

Very shortly after Azerbaijan gained political independence in the beginning of the 1990’s, Heydar Aliyev – a general of the former soviet State Security Committee [KGB] – seized power by resorting to countless very cunning moves. It is now 20 years that the Aliyevs (Heydar and his son Ilham – each for 10 years) have been ruling Azerbaijan as their own personal company (if we take into account also the soviet period, they are in power since 44 years). Based on the wealth of Azerbaijan in natural resources – which by constitution belongs to the population, not to the rulers – the Aliyev clan established an authoritarian system and managed to create a lobby in the countries considered as the centers of democracy in the world. Thanks to this system, this clan has achieved to strangle the voice of the Azerbaijani people not only inside Azerbaijan, but also abroad, including in the international organizations, which are supposed to be the defenders of social and historical values, such as democracy and human rights.The president of our country is like Don Caroline in the film “Godfather”, and the bodies of state power are his personal organizations. The forms and methods of our president’s activity do not differ in any way from the plots in “Godfather”.As a result, in Azerbaijan the fundamental human liberties – freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of suffrage [voting], freedom of religion and other fundamental rights – are severely being persecuted. Azerbaijan is a “hell” in today’s world, based on authoritarianism. It would be naive to hope for an improvement of anything in this hell. In this sense, declarations of the international organizations about “Azerbaijan moving one step forward or one step back, but in the direction of democracy”, as presented after every election in the last 20 years, are only cheating the public. A hell is just a hell. In this one there is no such idea as one step forward or one step back, slowly towards democracy. The present regime does not allow any event to occur beyond its control, and it allows itself all means for reaching its goals. It establishes criminal gangs for deceiving the international public, and then pretends to arrest them. It also arranges terror, coups d’état, hotbeds of separatism, and pretends to expose them. It puts different regions and peoples against one another for keeping the population under fear. Mass persecutions and telephone interception are everyday events. Facts about interference into personal lives, such as putting up candid cameras in bedrooms, are evident. Bodies of state power do not deal with their official responsibility, they are mobilized for maintaining this regime with all their resources. People live in constant fear; the activity of the real opposition has been brought to an unbearable condition. Nevertheless, thousands of people can sacrifice their welfare, health, and sometimes their own lives for democratic principles and human rights, even in such a situation.

The broadest prosecution method in Aliyevs’ Azerbaijan is to test people by depriving them of making their bread. There is a system of the Aliyevs, named “employment card” like the Bolsheviks’ “bread cards”, which were made for being distributed only to their own people. The people who act against authoritarianism are, first of all, limited in what they can do for a living. Such protestors, and their family members and relatives, are immediately dismissed and become jobless. Their financial resources are confiscated or otherwise taken under control. There is only one path left for such people: to emigrate from the country. Those who do not leave the country and continue protesting, are imprisoned. In Azerbaijan the jails are full of such prisoners. Today there is an army of prisoners, consisting of journalists, demonstration participants, election and religious prisoners etc., arrested in accordance with laws that are applicable at will. The report issued by Mr. Strässer MP, the Deputy of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for the January 2013 session of this Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, related to political prisoners, stated the names of 85 political prisoners. As an effect of the abovementioned lobbyism and the activity of Ilham Aliyevs’ regime, which is also admitted by theParliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and temporarily called “Caviar Diplomacy”, the report was not approved and this caused a great happiness of authoritarian regime officials. This, at the same time, created opportunities for the authoritarian forces in Azerbaijan in the direction of strangling human rights. In a very short period of time (within the last 3 months) the list of political prisoners has been increased considerably. Their number is increasing fast due to participants of Guba and Ismayilli events, Bine trade rebels, members of the youth organization“Nidacilar”, and so on. Some of the social-political activists who were imprisoned and persecuted during the last 3 months are well-known not only in Azerbaijan, but also abroad. It is worthwhile to mention the names of some of them, as follows:

1) Elnur Seyidov, who was detained by officers of the National Security Ministry (NSM) of the Azerbaijan Republic, worked as a deputy head of the region branch “Tekhnica bank”. At the same time, he is a close relative of Ali Kerimli, from one of the country’s popular opposition parties,the Azerbaijan Nation Front Party. On March 29, 2012, investigation by the Ministry of NationalSecurity of the Azerbaijan Republic charged Elnur Seyidov with 178.3.1, 178.3.2 of the Criminal Code (fraud by an organized group involving seizure of a large quantity of another’s property). On the same day, the court made a decision to arrest Elnur for 3 months.Then, the detention period was extended three times, up to one year. However, the period of detention of the accused in criminal cases, in this category, as a rule cannot be more than 9 months, and – according to the requirements of the law – only if there is a criminal investigation. In exceptional cases, this period could be extended up to 12 months. An exceptional case must  exhibit a duty of investigation and judicial authority. E. Seyidov‘s case does not reflect this exception. There was no investigation, and judicial authority was absent. Thus, the court illegally extended the detention without preliminary evidence. Additionally, the National legislation and International conventions requires that the verdict reflect preliminary evidence. The court’s decision did not reflect the preliminary evidence needed for a criminal act. Two times documents were sent concerning E. Seyidov’s case via the post-office of theEuropean Court for Human Rights, but were removed by the special service bodies of the country in an attempt of preventing the case to be examined at this international court, for confirming violations of law committed against E. Seyidov.

2) Ilgar Mammadov. He is the chairman of the Republican Alternative Movement (ReAL) organization. The organization has put forward his candidacy for the presidential elections to take place this year. Ilgar Mammadov was arrested illegally during the activities that occurred on 23-24 January [2013], by being accused of violating public order and instigating citizens to be rebels. A while ago he was severely submitted to threats of parliamentary deputies, since he compared the parliament with a “zoo” based on video material that shows how mandates are “traded” in the Parliament of the Republic (National Assembly). Human rights organizations and ReAL consider his imprisonment as the result of a political command.

3) Tofig Yagublu. He is a deputy chairman of Musavat [party], an author of the newspaper “Yeni Musavat”. The Musavat party is one of the leading opposition parties of the country and acts against the existing authoritarian regime from an uncompromising position. Tofig Yagublu was also imprisoned illegally during the actions on 23-24 January [2013] in Ismayilli for violation of public order and instigating citizens to riots. A while ago Tofiq Yaqublu’s daughter Nigar Yaqublu was subjected to an inadequate punishment for her father’s activity, and she was released only after her father was arrested. Human rights organizations and the Musavat Party consider his imprisonment as the result of a political command.

4) Rashad Hassanov. He is a member of the “Nida” Youth organization. Rashad Hassanov has been imprisoned illegally by being accused of keeping an illegal firearm in an organized way. A while ago before his arrest, on 9 March, three activists of “Nida” – Shahin Novruzlu, Bakhtiyar Guliyev and Mahammad Azizov – were imprisoned illegally with the accusation of  possessing narcotics and explosive substances for 3 months as per the court decision. They were arrested one day before the action that took place on 10 March as a protest against deaths of soldiers in non-fighting circumstances. “Nida” has declared that the arrests of civil movement members are political commands.

5) Rustam Ibrahimbeyov. He is a scenarist, film director, and a playwright. He is also the Azerbaijan national writer, Honoured Art worker of both Azerbaijan and Russia, the chief of Azerbaijan Cinematographers’ Union, and an Oscar prize-winner. It is already several years that Rustam Ibrahimbeyov has been criticizing – as one of the most famous intellectuals of Azerbaijan – the policy of the current government and the activities of the high officials; his criticism has deepened and increased recently. Just because of the increasing criticism and especially his point-of-view related to the forthcoming presidential elections, aggressions against him and the civil society around him were expanded. After repeated inspections conducted in the office of the Cinematographers’ Union on 20 November 2012, the primary investigation department of tax evasion of the Ministry of Taxes opened a criminal case as per Article 213.1 of the Criminal Code on 27 December 2012 – although there is no true evidence. Lala Efendiyeva, a member of Azerbaijan Cinematographers’ Union, who was an accredited representative in conducting the Baku International Film Festival “East-West” (“Sherg-Gerb”) in 2009, has been accused in accordance with Article 179.3.2 of the Criminal Code. On 18 January, 10 officials from the department of Primary Investigation of Tax Evasions conducted a search in the Cinematographers’ Union office and collected documents, copies of which had already been provided to the Ministry of Taxes. On 23 January, the Union was thrown out of its office located in the government house by the representatives of Baku City Executive Authority, without showing any official document and submittal of any notification in this respect.

During Rustam Ibrahimbeyov’s arrival from Moscow to Baku on 30 December 2012, his diplomatic passport and foreign passport were taken by the passport control officers in the airport under the pretext of inspection. In more than two hours after Ibrahimbeyov was allowed to pass the border, he was notified that, since he did not respect the Supreme Commander-in-Chief [the president Ilham Aliev], they did not have respect for him either. On 21 January 2013, when Ibrahimbeyov was leaving Baku, he faced again such problems in the airport. He was told at the frontier post that he had to wait due to a technical problem, and he was allowed to leave the post only half an hour before take-off. Besides, denigrating actions have been launched against Rustam Ibrahimbeyov in most of Azerbaijan TV channels and newspapers, under the supervision of Ali Hassanov, the chief of the social and political relations department of the President’s Executive body. Rustam Ibrahimbeyov has been blamed during the last weeks for various misappropriations, mentioning names of places, offices and companies that are claimed to be his, without any substantiation or proof.

There are reports about pressure and threats on the members of the Cinematographers’ Union. At the moment, Rustam Ibrahimbeyov is abroad and any return to his native land may result in his imprisonment. According to official reports, 10 people for the action in “Bine”Trade Center (on 19 January), 12 people for Ismayilli events (23 January) were arrested and condemned. And there are lots of official prisoners too. Currently, two chief editors have been imprisoned by means of false accusations: EvezZeynally (“Khurat” newspaper) and Hilal Mammadov (“Tolishi Seda” newspaper), as well as Movsum Samadov, the chairman of Azerbaijan Islam Party, and many of functionaries of the same party (Ruhulla Akhundov, Firdovsi Mammadrzayev, Deyanet Samedov, etc.), and two ex-ministers (Farhad Aliyev and Ali Insanov). Based on these recent experiences, it can be ascertained that the authoritarian regime has a preference for calumniation (e.g. by secretly putting narcotics into pockets, placing arms in apartments and personal vehicles, using false witnesses / perjurers, counterfeiting corruption and   tax evasions, blaming for hooliganism, etc.) for dealing with the people whom it dislikes orconsiders undesirable. By using these methods, the inhuman and illegal procedures are made to look very civilized. We do not accept these and the addition of more and new ways and forms of denigration and calumniation, moreover for maintaining an inhuman situation – which are currently escalating due to the approach of the presidential elections.Taking into consideration the above, we would like to prompt the appropriate structures of the Council of Europe, the European Union, the NATO, and the UNO, not to abandon their principles on human rights and democratic values in their attitudes towards Azerbaijan, and to call all the international human rights organizations for giving more attention to the problem of political prisoners in Azerbaijan as a symptom of a much deeper problem, and to accomplish their freedom as soon as possible.

Sincerely yours,

Rzayev Gabil – President, National Union of the European Azerbaijani, Abilov Atakhan (Netherlands) – Chairman of the Executive Council,
Abdullayev Elshad (France) – Vice President, National Union of the European Azerbaijani, Abbasov Nadir (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Abbasova Mina (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Abdullayev Umid (Ukraine) – Member of the Executive Council,  Alibayli Elkhan (Netherlands) – Member of the Auditing Agency, Aliev Mehman (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Alirzayev İlkin (Netherlands) – Member of the Executive Council, Aliyev Bahruz (Netherlands) – Member, Amiraslanova Yegane (Germany) – Member, Bunyatov Yalchin (Ukraine) – Member, Calabi Huseyn (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Can Ansar (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Damirov Ehtiram (Germany) – Member of the Executive Council, Feyzullazade Afag (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Feyzullazade Coshgun (Switzerland) – Member, Garashova Ulviyye (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Guduyevİlgar (Germany) – Member of the Executive Council, Guliyev Adalet (Belgium) – Member, Guliyev Sabir (Sweden) – Member, Gurbanov Reshad (Switzerland) – Member, Gurbanova Nargile (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Hacili Ali (Netherlands) – Member, Huseynov Galib (Russia) – Member, İsmayilova Kemale (Switzerland) – Member, Koca Yusif (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Latifov Surkhan (Switzerland) – Chairman of the Auditing Agency, former President of the European Movement of Azerbaijan, Maharramov Elchin (Germany) – Member of the Executive Council, Mecidli Elnur (France) – Member, Mecidoglu Telman (Netherlands) – Member, Mehraliyev Gehreman (Russia) – Member of the Executive Council, Nuriyev Elkhan (Ukraine) – Member of the Executive Council, Pashayev Musallim (Germany) – Member of the Executive Council, Polat Seyfetdin (Switzerland) – Member, Rizvanov Sarvan (Germany) – Member of the Executive Council, Saftarov Hasan (Canada) – Member, Schaerer Alec (Switzerland) – Member of the Auditing Agency, Operative Advisor, Tagiyeva Sevan (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Tagıyev Huseyn (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Yavuz Nahid (Switzerland) – Member of the Executive Council, Zeynalov Adalet (Russia) – Member of the Executive Council, Zeynalov Sadiyar (Luxemburg) – Member.
Total: 3034 signatures, of which 43 are shown here
Phone: + 41 79 4043444

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