IRFS calls on Azerbaijani authorities to immediately release arrested human rights activist
IRFS condemns arrest of a human rights activist in Azerbaijan
The Azerbaijan Human Rights Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) issued a statement calling on the country’s authorities to decriminalize defamation and immediately release human rights activist Ilham Tahmazov (Aslanoglu). Last week he was sentenced to six months in prison under the article “insult”.
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Last week, on June 9, 2022, the Yevlakh District Court sentenced Ilham Takhmazov to six months in prison, finding him guilty under Article 148 (insult) of the Azerbaijani Criminal Code.
The statement of the human rights organization notes that the statements voiced by the human rights activist during his interview on the AzerFreedom YouTube channel about the mass torture in 2017 as part of the “Terter case” became the reason for the criminal prosecution.
As part of the fabricated “Terter case” on espionage in favor of Armenia, over 200 military and civilians were tortured and 11 people died as a result.
“For his human rights activities within the framework of the investigation of mass torture in the Terter region of Azerbaijan, Ilham Takhmazov has been subjected to systematic pressure from the authorities over the past years. In 2019, due to his views and beliefs, he was expelled from the Collegium of Advocates of Azerbaijan on a false complaint, in January of this year he was convicted on trumped-up charges of slander, also related to his public interviews about torture in the Terter region of Azerbaijan,” IRFS stressed.
In its statement, the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety noted that, according to the monitoring carried out over the last two years, the Azerbaijani authorities have begun to use a new tactic of short-term criminal arrests for defamation against both journalists and human rights activists, and in relation to opposition figures.
“For six months since after arrest, a critic is subjected to moral and psychological, and sometimes physical pressure in custody which is aimed at stopping their activities or them taking a more compromise position in relation to the authorities. If pressure fails to break the will of a critic, the authorities initiate a new trumped-up charge of defamation.
A good example of this is the case of opposition figure Ali Aliyev, who since the beginning of this year has been twice convicted under defamatory articles for his thoughts expressed during an interview with the Osmanqızı TV YouTube channel.
In the last month of his imprisonment, a new, third in six months, a defamation lawsuit was filed against Ali Aliyev for his statements about the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan (New Azerbaijan) party in an interview with the Bumerang TV YouTube channel.
“After joining the Council of Europe, the Azerbaijani authorities have repeatedly promised to decriminalize defamation, but the numerous facts of persecution of their critics under defamatory articles are increasingly moving the country away from the standards of the Council of Europe”, said Emin Huseynov, Executive Director of IRFS.
“The Council of Europe should more closely monitor and respond promptly to the repeated politically motivated arrests of critics and demand from the authorities full respect for all values emanating from the European Convention on Human Rights”, summed up Huseynov.
“ISBR calls on Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) General Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR, PACE General Rapporteur on freedom of the media and safety of journalists Mogens Jensen (Mogens JENSEN), as well as co-rapporteurs of the PACE monitoring committee Stefan SCHENNACH and Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER to condemn the Azerbaijani authorities for criminal defamation of critical voices and call for their immediate release.
The IRFS calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to provide and guarantee a safe environment in the country for the professional activities of journalists and human rights activists, end politically motivated persecution of critics, immediately release all prisoners of conscience, and fully restore their violated rights”, the statement says.