Two more activists arrested in Azerbaijan
Two activists arrested in Azerbaijan
Two more activists have been arrested in Azerbaijan for taking part in a protest demanding the release of Bakhtiyar Hajiyev. Meanwhile, Hajiyev himself, after insistent requests from his lawyers, halted his dry hunger strike on its sixth day. The US Helsinki Commission issued a tough statement on Hajiyev’s arrest. “Azerbaijan has been an important partner to the US and critical to the world’s energy opportunities, but our international relations depend in no small measure on the mutual recognition of basic human rights principles,” the statement says.
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Today two activists, Samir Sultanov and Afiyaddin Mammadov, were imprisoned for thirty days by decision of the Yasamal District Court of Baku.
According to lawyer Zibeyda Sadygova, both activists were found guilty under Articles 535.1 (resistance to lawful demands of the police) and 510 (petty hooliganism) of the Code of Administrative Offenses. At trial they denied the charges, saying that they were protesting peacefully and did not show resistance.
Protest in front of the courthouse
On Monday, February 20, a group of activists held a protest in front of the Baku City Court of Appeal, which once again denied Bakhtiyar Hajiyev release from prison.
The protesters chanted “Bakhtiyar has the right to be free!”
The police pushed the protesters away from the court building and arrested five people: Afiyaddin Mammadov, Samir Sultanov, Neymat Abbasov, Ali Melikov and Narmin Shahmarzade.
The rest of the participants told reporters that Bakhtiyar could die at any moment and should be released immediately.
According to statements from Hajiyev’s lawyers, he was forcibly brought to court in spite of his protests over being ill. On the way to court, he became ill and vomited bile, said one activist.
Hajiyev ends dry hunger strike
Rovshan Rahimli, a lawyer who visited the activist in prison, reported that Hajiyev had resumed drinking water on the sixth day of his dry hunger strike.
“He has low blood pressure and low blood sugar. Due to severe dizziness, he moves only with difficulty,” Rahimli said.
Bakhtiyar Hajiyev was detained on December 9 on charges of hooliganism and contempt of court. He was sentenced to one month and twenty days in prison.
On December 15, Hajiyev went on a hunger strike to demand his release. On December 28, he ended his hunger strike after persistent calls from the public and family members. However, on January 9 he resumed his hunger strike after the Court of Appeal refused to release him.
On January 21 the court extended Hajiyev’s arrest for another month.
U.S. Helsinki Commission Statement
For the second time in less than a week, the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, better known as the Helsinki Commission, called on the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure humane treatment for Hajiyev, Turan news reports.
“We are absolutely appalled at the continued unjustified detention and mistreatment of Azeri civil activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, who has been imprisoned on trumped-up charges and his health is rapidly deteriorating as he continues his hunger strike,” Commission Chairman Joe Wilson and Commission Co-Chair Senator Ben Cardin said in a joint statement.
“The sentence by the Azerbaijani regime is completely disproportionate to the charges brought against him, and this is not the first time he has been persecuted, detained and insulted for his legitimate activities,” the authors maintain.
“Azerbaijan has been an important partner for the US and critical to the world’s energy opportunities, but our international relations depend in no small measure on the mutual recognition of basic human rights principles. This is true both for Mr. Hajiyev and for many other political prisoners.
We join our colleagues in the administration and in Europe in calling on the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure that Mr. Hajiyev is treated humanely, and to return to their obligations in accordance with the Helsinki principles,” the statement said.
Last Saturday the Helsinki Commission took to Twitter to criticize Hajiyev’s arrest and mistreatment, calling it “gross injustice and a flagrant violation of her fundamental human rights obligations.”
Separately, the co-chair of the commission, Ben Cardin, called on the Azerbaijani government to release Hajiyev immediately. “We can and will hold all those who seek to violate human rights to account,” he said.