19 prisoners, 5 workers infected with coronavirus in Azerbaijani prison
Gobustan Prison in Azerbaijan, where many of those sentenced to life imprisonment serve their time along with political prisoners, has become a coronavirus hotspot.
The prisoners’ families state that they do not believe the promises the government has made about the epidemiological measures that they have taken.
The higher-ups of the prison, located in the suburb of Gobustan on the outskirts of Baku, state that 24 people are infected in total, five workers and 19 prisoners.
“The infected are in good condition. Most of them are asymptomatic. Strict measures have been taken to prevent the spread of the virus”, officials said in a statement.
However, the prisoners’ families say that there is actually absolutely nothing for coronavirus prevention in the prison. There’s no mention of masks or hand sanitizer and prisoners even have to buy soap with their own money.
The mother of Ali Rzaev, sentenced to a long term in prison for his participation in the “Ganja Case”, spoke about this in detail.
Many other participants in that incident are serving time in the prison.
On 3 July, 2018, Elmar Valiyev, the then-mayor of the second-most important city in Azerbaijan, Ganja, was severely wounded by being shot in the head. After a week of mass protests, two police officers were killed. A number of protesters were then killed by the special forces “for violently resisting arrest”. More than 60 people were sentenced to terms of five to eight years in prison “for participation in a radical religious group”.
The penal service does not accept the blame for the lack of proper health conditions in the prison, claiming that prisoners are given personal protection against coronavirus for free.
The number of cases continues to rise in Azerbaijan. 135 cases were recorded on 30 August. Since the start of the pandemic 36,309 people have been infected in total. 531 of them have died, and 33,703 have recovered.
Strict quarantine has been in effect in the country since 20 June, remaining in force until the end of September. Travel from the capital to the regions and vice versa is prohibited, shopping centres are closed, and buses do not run on the weekends.
The life sentence was introduced in Azerbaijan in 2001, being automatically given to those who had previously been sentenced to capital punishment, which was abolished in 1998.