The resolution also calls for putting an end to pressure on journalists and human rights advocates
On 17 January, The European Parliament has adopted a resolution demanding that the Azerbaijani authorities immediately release blogger Mehman Huseynov and remove new charges from him.
The resolution also calls for an end to the suppression of dissent in Azerbaijan, to immediately release all political prisoners and to stop the persecution of journalists.
Blogger Mehman Huseynov has spent two years in prison – his term was due to end in March. However, new charges were levied against him – that of beating a guard. He now faces several more years in prison. In solidarity, 11 people went on hunger strike in the country – both political prisoners and political activists.
Also, the European Parliament “urges EU officials to publicly express their concern about the human rights situation in Azerbaijan.”
That same morning, Huseynov’s brother, Emin Huseynov, sent an open letter to members of the European Parliament, saying that he was deeply shocked by the words of European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström that Mehman had stopped his hunger strike and called on them to vote to save Mehman and other political prisoners.
A member of the board of the Musavat party, Tofig Yagublu, stopped his hunger strike, citing health and the urgent requests of his friends and colleagues.
- Award-winning Azerbaijani reporter Khadija Ismaylova has gone on hunger strike today to show her solidarity with political prisoners in the country. She used to be one herself, having been put in jail after publishing a series of high-profile exposés about the ruling Aliev family’s hidden business interests and property portfolios. She was paroled in 2016.
- Of the seven initial opposition activists on hunger strike in the Musavat Party headquarters, two have stopped. Of the remaining five, two are on a dry hunger strike and refuse to drink water.
- Musavat deputy chairman Tofik Yaqublu, who has been on a hunger strike for 12 days, called on citizens to actively participate in an opposition protest rally scheduled for January 19.
Five political prisoners have announced a hunger strike in prison in a show of solidarity with convicted Azerbaijani blogger Mehman Huseynov.
They are joining his protest against new charges that have been brought against him: those of attacking a prison guard.
The new accusations threaten to extend his term of imprisonment by seven years.
On 13 January a statement written by them circulated via social media, calling on all political prisoners to join in the protest.
Activists’ hunger strike
On 26 December Mehman Huseynov declared a hunger strike, and in doing so launched a wave of protest among those parts of society aligned with the opposition. At the beginning of January, activists from opposition parties also went on hunger strike. There are now seven of them, and they are on hunger strike at the offices of the Musavat party.
Among the five activists who began their hunger strike in Prison Number 13, two are recognized as prisoners of conscience. Among them is Bayram Mammadov, known as the ‘monument prisoner’. He and Giyas Ibrahimov received 10 years in prison on charges of trafficking narcotics after they wrote a sarcastic message on a monument to ex-President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev.
The inmates’ statement says that if all political prisoners do not stand up to defend their rights now, each of them will find drugs or a weapon under their pillow, or will be accused of beating someone up the day after. They also condemn ‘Western organizations’ that close their eyes to what is taking place in Azerbaijan.
The penitentiary service maintains that there is no hunger strike.
What will happen to Huseynov now?
A few days ago Huseynov began consuming milk and liquid dairy products because of stomach pains. There are debates around whether this still qualifies as a hunger strike.
On 10 January the press published a photo of a handwritten statement from Huseynov himself saying that he didn’t want to create a fuss around himself, and that he does not assume responsibility for his brother, the political émigré Emin Huseynov.
This statement contrasted sharply with the words of Mehman, which was conveyed by his lawyer Shahla Gumbatova on 6 January:
“I will not stop the hunger strike. The conclusion of my term is 2 March – if I am not released, I will take another path. Not because I’m afraid of a new sentence, but I don’t want to spend another 5-6 years in prison – not because I’m weak. On the contrary, now I feel very strong to fight. Until now, hundreds of political prisoners have gone to prison for contrived charges and sacrificed their freedom, but this sacrifice did not change anything, the situation remains the same and is even getting worse. So, we need to go even further and sacrifice even more, so that maybe something can be changed.”
Emin Huseynov, a journalist and director of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, lives in Switzerland. He is currently in communication with his brother via telephone and is acting as intermediary between Mehman Huseynov and the public. He maintains that Mehman is under intense pressure: “Mehman emphasized that he has no information about what is being circulated in his name.”
Mehman’s Huseynov lawyer, Shahla Gumbatova was also surprised to hear of the statement.
On 11 January Huseynov was visited in pre-trial holdings by the deputy director of the EU delegation to Azerbaijan and by staff from the French, Dutch, UK, Czech, and German embassies. Following this visit they declared only that “the EU delegation is carefully monitoring the situation”.
According to the blogger’s brother, drinking milk and kefir is still in line with a hunger strike: “Mehman is planning on an extended hunger strike until his release and the expiry of his sentence on 2 March.”