Turkish parliament discusses suspicious death of Azerbaijani activist
The mysterious death of Azerbaijani activist Bayram Mammadov also known as the ‘prisoner of the monument’ in Istanbul has become a subject of discussion in the Turkish parliament. MP of the opposition People’s Democratic party (HDP) Murat Cepni came up with the initiative to discuss the issue further.
During a plenary session of parliament, MP Cepni said:
“10 days after Mammadov’s death, his friend Giyas Ibragimov, who was convicted together with Bayram Mammadov, was deported from Turkey without any reason and it was announced to him that henceforth he was prohibited from entering Turkey. Bayram’s father Farman Mammadov last spoke with his son on May 1, 2021, when he found out that his son was going to return to Baku within a week. People close to Mamedov say that he was persecuted by members of the Turkish special services, and earlier he was interrogated at the Istanbul airport by one of the officers”.
“Considering that Bayram Mammadov was a famous figure and a human rights activist persecuted by the foreign countries, as well as the fact that both the Azerbaijani press and Istanbul police first reported his cause of death as suicide and later changed it to an accident, it seems to me that there are attempts to cover up the case“, Cepni noted, adding that it is necessary to conduct a thorough investigation of the causes of Mammadov’s death in order to eliminate all suspicions.
The MP sent a nine-point inquiry to the Turkish Interior Minister Suleiman Soylu asking him to investigate the conditions and causes of Bayram Mammadov’s death. The request also reflects the question of the presence or absence of negotiations and cooperation with the government of Azerbaijan on this case.
On May 2, 2021, the connection with the 26-year-old activist Bayram Mammadov, who had recently been living in Turkey, was lost. On May 5, 2021, it was reported that his body was found in the sea.
The official sources state that on May 2, Bayram Mammadov was in the seaside Moda area in Istanbul’s Kadikoy district. At some point, his slippers fell into the water, and he rushed after them into the sea. After some time, Bayram disappeared from sight. Coast guard officers arrived at the scene and managed to pull the already lifeless body of Mamedov out of the water. Due to the fact that no documents were found during the examination of the body, he was handed over to the morgue as unidentified.
As a result of the search work of friends, the body of Bayram Mammadov was identified and handed over to his family after a forensic medical examination. The body of Bayram Mammadov was delivered to Baku on May 9 where he was buried in a cemetery in the suburbs of the capital of Azerbaijan.
Allegations of suicide
Even before any official information was received from Turkey, the pro-government media in Azerbaijan started to report Mammadov’s death as a suicide.
Bayram Mammadov had received a scholarship at a UK university and planned to continue his studies there but, on the eve of his death, he announced to his father that he intended to come to Baku within a week. Friends and relatives of Bayram do not believe that he could have committed suicide.
In a criminal probe, Bayram Mammadov’s death was characterized as “suspicious”.
“In their testimony, the coast guard said that at the moment when Bayram was already drowning, they tried to tell him how to get out, the young man followed their advice, but could not get out of the water. In other words, it was definitely not a suicide”, said the lawyer of the family, Chiydem Akbulut.
Chiydem Akbulut added that she finds it suspicious that Coast Guard officers who were there to fulfil their official duties, but, who, allegedly, cannot swim, did not rush into the water to save Bayram and simply advised him on what to do.
Akbulut also stressed that so far they have not been provided with the recordings of surveillance cameras from the scene and the conclusion of the forensic medical examination following the autopsy of the body.
“We were told that the disclosure of the expert opinion will take three to four months”, Chiydem Akbulut said.
Meanwhile, young activists from Azerbaijan and Turkey continue to campaign under the hashtag #BayramaNeOldu (what happened to Bayram) on social media with the hope of having the causes of his death investigated.
Who is Bayram Mammadov?
Bayram Mammadov became famous in 2016 after being arrested along with Giyas Ibragimov. Together they left an inscription “Happy slaves’ day!” on the monument to ex-President Heydar Aliyev on the day of H.Aliyev’s birthday, May 10, which, until recently, was celebrated as the “flower festival” [In Azerbaijani language, the words gül (flowers) and qul (slave) are consonants – JAMnews].
Immediately after that, the detained activists were accused of drug trafficking and imprisoned for 10 years. While in detention, both activists had been severely tortured.
However, ever since the arrest of activists, the “flower festival” which coasted millions of manats to the state budget has sunk into oblivion.
Bayram Mammadov and Giyas Ibragimov were pardoned in 2019 after repeated appeals from international human rights organizations, but both of them were arrested again shortly after being released on pardon.