Political prisoner accused of illegal financing of opposition Popular Front Party released in Azerbaijan
Political prisoner Agil Maharramov was released after serving a four-year term.
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Agil Maharramov, an activist of the opposition Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), was arrested on May 25, 2018 as part of the case of Saleh Rustamov, the former chief executive of the Gadabay region during the reign of the Popular Front Party in 1992-1993. Agil Maharramli, along with other PFPA members Vidadi Rustamli, Ruslan Nasirov and Babek Hasanov, were arrested on charges of “legalizing a large amount of money obtained by criminal means as part of an organized group”. Another party activist, Eltaj Alisoy, is on the wanted list.
According to investigators, they handed over money sent by Saleh Rustamli, a PFPA functionary who owns a business in Russia, to the chairman and thus acted as intermediaries in the illegal financing of the party.
As a result of the investigation, Ruslan Nasirov and Vidadi Rustamli were released on parole, Babek Hasanov, who was pardoned by the President last year, was sentenced to 3 years, and Agil Maharramov, who was released today, to 4 years in prison.
Saleh Rustamov was sentenced to 7 years and 3 months in prison, he is still serving his sentence.
None of the persons accepted the charges and all stated that their arrests were politically motivated.
Ali Karimli, the PFPA chairman, has repeatedly stated that the activists’ arrests are part of the government’s ongoing crackdown on the party.
According to Ali Karimli, Saleh Rustamov is not only a member of the PFPA, but also his close friend. When he found himself in a difficult situation, Rustamov repeatedly sent him $500-1,000 to help him ($4,000-5,000 dollars in total). In turn, the official charge of the prosecutor’s office mentions $412,000.
In November-December last year, Saleh Rustamov went on a hunger strike in prison in protest against his detention, which lasted 41 days. At the same time, the European Court of Human Rights contacted the Azerbaijani government to take interim action on his case.
Rustamov agreed to stop the hunger strike, as his health deteriorated to a critical degree, and his relatives asked him to do so. On the other hand, the initiated communication between the Azerbaijani government and the European Court gave reason to hope for his speedy release. Although five months have passed since then, Rustamov has not yet been released.
On May 25, the day Agil Maharramov was released, Salekh Rustamov turned 59 years old. He is celebrating his fourth birthday in prison.