High profile civic activists, opposition members released through amnesty in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan has announced a wide-reaching amnesty decree, which will see the release of some of the most well-known civic activists and opposition members in the country.
Individuals who will be affected by the decree are, among others, Qiyas Ibahimov, Bayram Mammadov, Ilkin Rustamzade, Gozal Bayramli and Fuad Qahramanli, as well as the former minister of health, Ali Insanov.
International human rights organizations have declared them political prisoners and prisoners of conscience convicted on trumped-up charges.
The amnesty decree, signed into effect by President Ilham Aliyev on 16 March, will affect almost 400 prisoners. Among them are:
- Young activists Qiyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov, who were sentenced to 10-year terms after writing graffiti on a statue of Heydar Aliyev, the country’s former president;
- Gozal Bayramli, the deputy chairwoman of the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party (APFP) who was earlier sentenced to four years on smuggling charges while crossing the border from Georgia to Azerbaijan;
- Fuad Qahramanli, the deputy chairman of the APFP who was sentenced to 10 years on charges of making ‘anti-state appeals’;
- Ilkin Rustamzade, an activist of the NIDA civic movement who organized youth protests against non-combat casualties in the army and was sentenced to 8 years for ‘organizing mass riots’;
- Ali Insanov, the country’s former health minister who was sentenced to 11 years for an ‘attempted coup d’état’. After the expiration of this term, he was given another seven years for the possession of drugs in prison.
In total, there are more than 120 political prisoners in Azerbaijan, although the government does not recognize them as such. Of these, 51 will be released as part of the amnesty decree, but most are still in prison. This includes, for example, journalist Afgan Mukhtarli who was sentenced in 2018 to six years in prison on charges of smuggling and illegally crossing the border.