Azerbaijan exonerates former political prisoner Ilgar Mammadov, drops all charges
The authorities in Azerbaijan have complied with the decision issued by the European Court of Human Rights back in 2014. Namely, they exonerated the opposition leader and former political prisoner Ilgar Mammadov, dropped all charges of inciting mass violence, and fully restored all of his rights.
Some are suspicious about this sudden decision, and Ilgar Mammadov is accused of selling out, or planning to sell out to the authorities.
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The Ilgar Mammadov case
Ilgar Mammadov is the leader of the unregistered Republican Alternative (REAL) Party.
In 2013, he planned to run for president, but was arrested after traveling to the northern Azerbaijani city of Ismayili, where there were riots and demonstrations taking place. Initially, Mamedov was charged with organizing these protests and resisting the police, and later the first charge was replaced by a more serious one – organising mass riots, accompanied by arson and pogroms.
In 2014, Mammadov was sentenced to seven years in prison. The ECHR found this arrest unlawful and demanded that he be released and that all charges be dropped. The Azerbaijani authorities refused to comply.
Ilgar Mammadov spent almost five years in prison and was released in August 2018. But his criminal record was not cleared for a long time, which prevented Mammadov from fully engaging in the political scene, for example, running for parliament.
Thus, Azerbaijan still continued to ignore the decision of the European Court. Based on the fact that the ECHR issued a verdict of acquittal in the Mamedov case, the Council of Europe demanded that the Azerbaijani authorities restore all of his rights.
Finally, on April 23, 2020, it was announced that Mammadov had all of his rights restored.
Justice or bribery?
In February of 2020, early parliamentary elections were held in Azerbaijan. Numerous violations were reported, and as a result, out of all opposition candidates, only Erkin Gadirli, one of the members of the board of the Republican Alternative, was given a mandate.
Many opposition members and activists were outraged. They accused Gadirli of selling out to the ruling party and demanded that he give up the mandate (which he did not). These charges were then automatically transferred to Ilgar Mammadov, as the party leader.
Mammadov set the rest of the opposition against him even more when he spoke of the possibility of having a dialogue with the authorities.
In light of all this, the decision to restore Mammadov’s rights caused a lot of controversy and doubt. While some congratulate him and say that justice has triumphed, others see this as the result of an agreement with the authorities.
“Everything would have been different if not for the elections and everything else that preceded this decision. Now, although the restoration of his rights is well-deserved, it seems as if it is a bribe,” writes journalist Khadija Ismailova, also a former political prisoner.
In a statement, the REAL Party also acknowledged that the decision was tied to the fact that the party has entered into a dialogue with the authorities.
“We do not lose sight of the fact that the decision to exonerate was made in light of the authorities’ proposal to start a dialogue with the opposition, the adoption of this proposal by REAL, and the beginning of a practical relationship.”
Along with Ilgar Mammadov, a member of the Musavat opposition party Tofig Yagublu was arrested on charges of organizing the Ismayilli riots. He spent more than three years in prison, then was released on probation, but the charges have not yet been dropped. At the moment, Yagublu is once again under arrest on charges of hooliganism.