Azerbaijan: wave of repression amidst quarantine regime continues
The wave of repression against the opposition continues in Azerbaijan, with the quarantine regime and the fight against coronavirus being used as a justification.
Faiq Amirli, a member of the opposition Azerbaijani Popular Front Party, was sentenced to 30 days on charges of “violating the quarantine regime.”
NİDA activist and former political prisoner Ilkin Rustamzadeh reports experiencing pressure from the police, blackmail and bullying.
Just a couple of weeks ago, on March 22-23, another member of the Popular Front Anar Melikov was sentenced to prison for 10 days on charges of violating the quarantine regime, and Tofig Yagublu, one of the leaders of the Musavat party, was accused of hooliganism, imprisoned for 3 months and is currently awaiting trial.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called this the beginning of a “new round of repression” and stated that President Ilham Aliyev is using the pandemic to suppress the opposition.
“It is very likely that the Azerbaijani government is launching a new round of political repression. This does not bode well for the future of the country as part of the Council of Europe,” commented PACE Rapporteur on political prisoners in Azerbaijan Thorhildur Sunna Ævarsdottir.
Official data from the morning of April 8 states that there are 822 reported cases of coronavirus in Azerbaijan. Eight people have died, 63 have recovered.
30 day prison sentence for opposition member
Faiq Amirli is Assistant to the Chairman of the Popular Front Party. In August 2016, he was arrested on charges of inciting religious hatred and tax evasion, and sentenced to 3 years, 3 months in prison. In September 2017, his sentence was shortened and he was let go early.
Amirli’s wife says that on April 8, a group of people pushed Amirli into an unknown car near the house and drove away.
On April 9, the court sentenced Faiq Amirli to 30 days of administrative detention. Both his wife and opposition members close to him have written about this on their Facebook pages. How exactly Amirli “violated the quarantine rules” is unclear.
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Activist surrounded by police
Ilkin Rustamzade served 6 years on false charges of organizing mass riots, and was released in 2019. After Azerbaijan imposed the quarantine to stop the spread of coronavirus, he wrote an online petition demanding that the state pay monetary compensation to citizens and waive their utility bills and bank loans for this period.
Rustamzade believes that this petition is what provoked the incident. He says that on April 8, the police first visited his parents, and then surrounded his apartment building.
In addition, Ilkin says that a few days prior, false and compromising information about his wife began to appear online.
And on top of that, the activist says, the landlord wants them to move out.
Azerbaijan has imposed a strict quarantine regime.
Metros, parks, and city squares are all closed. Most businesses and other organizations have suspended operations.
Starting April 5, restrictions on the movement of citizens have been introduced, and before leaving the house, everyone, with the exception of workers in certain areas, must receive SMS permission from the authorities. Violators are fined.
At the same time, the government has yet to officially declare a state of emergency.
Authorities promise to compensate business owners and some workers who were left unemployed due to the coronavirus.