Taleh Bagirzade has been on hunger strike since 31 January in protest against being pressured
The leader of the Muslim Unity Movement, Taleh Bagirzade, who has been on hunger strike in prison for more than 10 days, is not being allowed to see his lawyer, his family says.
How did Taleh Bagirzade end up in prison?
In November 2015, Azerbaijani security forces conducted a special operation in Nardaran village near Baku.
They attempted to arrest members of the Muslim Unity Movement, an Azerbaijani Muslim religious group, during a daytime prayer session.
A shootout took place in which six were killed, including two policemen.
Officials at the time said that the raid was conducted in order to ‘neutralize’ two ‘extremists’ who intended to ‘overthrow the constitutional order of Azerbaijan’.
At the beginning of 2017, Taleh Bagirzade and his 17 supporters were sentenced to imprisonment for terms ranging from 10 to 20 years on charges of premeditated murder, public disorder and extremism.
The defendants denied the charges against them and said they had been tortured in prison.
Azerbaijani human rights activists consider them political prisoners.
Why did Bagirzade begin a hunger strike?
At the end of January, the Muslim Unity Movement stated that Bagirzade and other convicted members of the movement had recently faced ‘unprecedented pressure’.
A convict who had previously tried to set fire to a former cellmate in bed was placed in Bagirzade’s cell. Two other members of the movement, Abbas Huseynov and Jabbar Jabbarov were verbally and physically abused.
On 4 February, Huseynov called home and said that he had been on a hunger strike since 3 February.
Bagirzade’s lawyer vs. official statements
Bagirzade’s wife says that for two weeks now her husband has not called home and she has not heard from him.
Bagirzade’s lawyer, Behruz Bayramov, says he was denied a meeting with Bagirzade twice last week – prison officials told him that the defendant himself refused to meet with him.
“They told me that he didn’t look like a starving person,” the lawyer said.
Huseynov’s mother also says that since the call on 4 February, she has had no contact with her son and that the prison administration has not allowed a lawyer in to see him either.
A representative of the penitentiary service denied the hunger strike and torture of prisoners.