Verdict against opposition party leader recalled in Azerbaijan after five years of imprisonment
The Supreme Court of Azerbaijan has unexpectedly returned the case of Ilgar Mammadov to the second session of the Court of Appeal of the city of Sheki, having satisfied a second appeal.
It is not known whether the decision will lead to Mammadov’s early release as close to two years remain in his sentence or if his sentence will be increased instead. He currently remains in prison despite the fact that the previous verdict has been annulled.
The case of Ilgar Mammadov is one of the stumbling blocks between the Azerbaijani authorities and European human rights organizations and the Council of Europe.
Leader of opposition party Republican Alternative (REAL) Ilgar Mammadov was sentenced in 2013 to seven years’ imprisonment on charges of organizing public unrest in the Ismayilli region of Azerbaijan.
Ilgar Mammadov is currently the most famous of the opposition members convicted in Azerbaijan. Numerous international organizations, including PACE, have repeatedly supported Mammadov.
Back in 2014, the European Court of Human Rights demanded his unconditional release. However, the Azerbaijani authorities refused to enforce the decision. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe then launched a trial in connection with the refusal in December 2017.
As for the plenary session, Ilgar Mammadov himself was notified about it only a couple of days before, and he was not present at the meeting.
REAL members Emin Babaev predicts the following development of events:
“To send a case to the Sheki Court of Appeal means to create an opportunity, at least for another five to six months, to delay the liberation of Ilgar. In theory, along with the elimination of previous decisions, the decision to release him should also have been made.Thus it is being sent to Sheki and the trial will be delayed until about November. Then, most likely, he will be placed on parol for the remainder of the term, though his movement will be limited”.
According to Babaev, this is “just petty revenge for the fact that Ilgar did not want to write a petition for clemency”.
A similar, though more pessimistic opinion is held by Natig Jafarli, another member of REAL:
“In fact, the authorities are biding time so as not to release Ilgar, and they are doing everything to achieve this. Now the trial will drag on for months, and the result is unclear … If the government thought about state interests for a bit, Ilgar would be released at the first court session in Sheki.”
Ilgar Mammadov has served more than five years out of the seven he was sentenced to. If the court reaches a new verdict, these five years will be counted towards a new sentence.