Azerbaijan getting ready for the referendum
The opposition and international organizations point to the fact that from mid-August, the Azerbaijani authorities have resumed political reprisals ahead of the referendum, scheduled on September 26.
“I haven’t been allowed to visit my son so far, as well as couldn’t get a permission for him to make a phone call and receive care packages. And these right, as well as other rights that Fuad should enjoy, are grossly violated. I hope for the Lord, the Almighty, and count on the friends’ support, Zafar Ahmedov, the father of Fuad Ahmedli, the Popular Front Party’s youth activity, wrote on his Facebook page on August 30.
His son was arrested on August 18 on the charges of illegal channeling to the third persons the personal data of subscribers of the mobile operator, for which he worked. Asabali Mustafayev, his lawyer, points to his client’s aggravated health condition. Fuad Ahmedli has recently undergone several surgeries. He is currently kept in custody at the National Security Service’s pre-trial detention facility, whereas the lawyer insisted on his transfer to the pre-trial detention facility #1, where there are better confinement conditions.
A new wave of arrests began on the night of August 13. Natik Jafarli, ReAl party board member, was arrested for committing the financial crimes. Elgiz Gahramanli, a youth activist of the NIDA movement, was arrested on August 13, whereas Elshan Gasimov and Torgul Ismailov, the youth activists, were detained on August 15. Bahtiyar Hajiyev, a civil activist and former political prisoner, was detained and fined. Masud Rzali and Gyadim Bakirov, the Popular Front (APFP) members, were arrested on August 19.
Faiq Amirov, the financial director of the oppositionist ‘Azadlig’ newspaper, was arrested on August 20. He was allegedly disseminating the religious and extremist literature. The charges sound slightly different (instigation of religious enmity etc.), but the point is that three books about Fethullah Gülen were found at his place during the search.
Elchin Sharifzadeh, Mehman Huseynov and Masud Asker, were detained on August 28. They were released later on the same day.
The opposition and human rights activists point to numerous violations. For instance, Elchin Sadigov, a lawyer, claims, he couldn’t meet his client, Natik Jafarli, since the very first day of his arrest until present. Moreover, in his words, the Prosecutor General’s Office has violated the presumption of innocence, referring to Jafarli as ‘a guilty’ in its official statement.
A number of international organizations regarded the arrests in Baku as a new wave of reprisals.
“The international community should put pressure on the government in order to stop those reprisals and make it respect its own commitments as a member of the Council of Europe, the Reporters Without Borders organization stressed in its statement.
“Six months before the constitutional referendum, the Azerbaijani authorities unleashed a new wave of reprisals to hush the critical voices, reads the statement released by the Coalition of the International Human Rights Organizations.
“A wave of reprisals against the civil activists has resumed in Azerbaijan since August 12, when several youth activists were arrested, the Human Rights Watch stated.
The Freedom House organization also links the arrests to the upcoming referendum.
A referendum on the constitutional amendments, that are to further expand the President’s powers, will be held in Azerbaijan on September 26. The ReAl, Musavat and Popular Front parties, as well as some other parties and public organizations, believe that adoption of the constitutional amendments will further strengthen the authoritarian trend in the country.
‘Musavat’ Party filed a request with the CEC for setting up its own referendum campaign group. However, the party’s request has been turned down.
Meanwhile, after the arrests, the ReAl party, that had been registered with the Central Election Commission for a campaign, claimed, it wouldn’t participate in the campaign. According to the party, the police seized 100,000 flyers that the ReAl members were going to distribute. According to Azer Gasimli, the party board member, it doesn’t recognize either the referendum or the legitimacy of its outcome.
Overall 2 groups have been registered by the Central Election Commission (CEC): ‘Baladiya’ group, set up by a group of country’s municipalities; and the ‘Civil Society’, established by the Confederation of the Trade Unions of Azerbaijan.
Responding to the foreign critics, the authorities, as before, hold to a stance opposing any outside interference in the affairs of a sovereign state. “The domestic and foreign policies, pursued by Azerbaijan, prove that any biased approaches towards it won’t yield any results. Our country has never been under control of any state, and that will never happen in future, Novruz Mammadov, Deputy Chief of the Presidential Administration & Head of Foreign Relations Department, told ‘Azertag’ state news agency.
In his words, the ‘Western circles, international structures and foreign states are demonstrating a biased position with regard to Azerbaijan.’
“Such attempts to interfere in our country’s domestic affairs will never yield any results. We should give up on these double standards with regard to Azerbaijan, said Mammadov.