Well-known opposition leader in Azerbaijan sentenced to 4 yrs in high-security prison
The deputy chairman of the Azerbaijani opposition party Musavat, Tofiq Yaqublu, has been sentenced to 4 years and 3 months of imprisonment in a strict collective colony by Baku City Nizami District Court. The opposition considers the decision unjust and politically motivated. Yagublu himself has started a hunger strike.
Tofiq Yaqublu was arrested on 22 March, 2020 on charges of hooliganism. In the case brought against him, he was accused of having caused a car accident and attacking a married couple who were passengers in another vehicle.
During the court case, the prosecution asked for Yaqublu to be sentenced to 4 years and 6 months. The judge shortened that sentence by three months in his decision. Due to the coronavirus quarantine the court case was closed and journalists were not allowed into the courtroom.
Hundreds of opposition party members and supporters of Yaqublu were gathered outside of the courthouse during the sentencing. Among them were the leaders of the opposition parties Musavat and the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party, Arif Hacili and Ali Karimli. In interviews with journalists, they called the decision political and expressed confidence that Yaqublu would soon be released.
At the same time, the sentenced opposition member began a hunger strike, as stated by his lawyer, Agil Layic.
Yaqublu was imprisoned for two years from 2014 to 2016 on a charge of organising mass protests. Later, he was detained for 30 days for participating in mass opposition protests in Baku on 19 October, 2019.
Social media users have expressed dissatisfaction with the court’s decision. Here are some representative comments:
“Today, everyone with a conscience has been sentenced to 4 years and 3 months imprisonment”.
“This decision is unjust, and nothing will change that”.
“It’s not just the court’s decision that is dismaying, but just how much they keep persecuting Tofig Yaqublu”.