Six arrests in Azerbaijan in a week – what’s going on?
A new wave of arrests has begun in Azerbaijan soon after a sweeping amnesty decree was made which saw the release of 399 people, including 50 political prisoners.
Who was arrested?
- Bayram Mammadov, a well-known activist and former political prisoner, was sentenced to 30 days in prison for disobeying a police order. Many in Azerbaijan consider this “punishment” for the fact that he criticized the authorities after his release.
• Azerbaijan: recently re-jailed prisoner of conscience says he’s being tortured
- Four activists from the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) were arrested and sentenced to 15-30 days imprisonment. They too were accused of ‘disobeying the police’. The activists organised a rally which the party planned to hold on 6 April. Three of them were sentenced to 15 days’ imprisonment, while one was imprisoned for 30 days. The arrests began after the APFP asked officials for permission to hold the rally, said party deputy chairman Gozal Bayramova. Since the beginning of 2019, more than 50 APFP activists have been arrested.
• Azerbaijani religious activist extradited from Turkey
- Anar Jabbarov, an activist of the Muslim Unity movement, was detained in Turkey and extradited to Azerbaijan two weeks ago. His relatives had until recently been unable to find out where he was being held – he is in remand and stands accused of drug trafficking, Turan reports. However, on 5 April Azadliq received information that the accusations had been dismissed and that he had been released.
What does this mean?
The amnesty decree saw the release of 50 political prisoners.
Many experts and politicians attributed this to pressure from either the West or the opposition.
The public was completely confused when two weeks later, a new wave of arrests began, and some recent prisoners of conscience began to complain about being pressured by the police.
Comments from social media:
“Bayram described the torture he was subjected to during his last arrest. Who else believes in these so-called ‘reforms?’ ”
“…and I said on the very first day that the pardon was just a show!”
“Let them choke on their pardons and reforms.”
The new wave of persecution was condemned by Freedom House.
“These arrests contribute nothing to the goodwill expressed by President Ilham Aliyev’s pardoning, and testify to the continuation of pressure on the opposition as well as on the freedom of speech in Azerbaijan,” said Marc Behrendt, programme director for Europe and Eurasia at Freedom House.