On December 25 in an act of suicide witnessed by his 11-year-old daughter and bystanders, Zaur Hasanov, second group disabled Nagorno-Karabakh war veteran set himself on fire in front of the Trade Unions Confederation building in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku. Yesterday he passed away from sustained injuries.
Hasanov, who was taken to the hospital No.5 soon after the incident, remained conscious and able to speak for three days, despite having 60-65 percent of his body and 20 percent of his airways burnt. When interviewed by media, he blamed the confederation and personally its chairman, Member of Parliament Sattar Mehbaliyev for taking away his business – a restaurant in Bibiheybat region of Baku, which he has been operating since 1995.
“He played me like I was a kid. I am through with all of it,” said Hasanov from his hospital bed.
The confederation demolished Hasanov’s business on the grounds that it was illegally built on the territory of Shikh Sanatorium, owned by Kurort JSC under the Confederation of Trade Unions. Even though Hasanov possessed legal rent agreement he signed in 2005, it was declared illegal in Baku Local Economic court.
Speaking with journalists, the veteran’s father Hasan Hasanov said that Mehbaliyev has promised his son to allocate land in the neighborhood where he could build a new restaurant. According to Azerireport the Hasanovs mortgaged two family houses and took $350,000 in loans to build it. When construction was done that facility was demolished, too. Mehbaliyev then agreed to meet with Hasanov and promised to appoint him a manager of a new restaurant to be built as part of the sanatorium. However, as time went by that too did not happen. According to his father, Hasanov lost about 10 lawsuits within a year.
“My son never had a chance to win in court,” said Hasanov’s father. “Why? Because he had no one behind him, he was a poor man.”
Since the closure of the family business, Hasanov’s eldest son Ismayil, 13, quit school and found a job to provide for the family. He accompanied his father in numerous attempts to meet Mehbaliyev. According to Ismayil, the chairman repeatedly turned them away, often using threats and profound language. Ismayil also said that Mehbaliyev called their house, threatening his father to get him arrested on drug charges and put him away for life. In addition, Hasanov was once kidnapped by unknown individuals in masks, who voiced the same threats, and let him go the next day.
An article titled “Both the claim and the accusation should be based on the principle of fairness rather than slander…” posted on the confederation’s website on December 26 shed light to their side of the story. According to the confederation, the Congress of People’s Deputies of Baku allocated the land to Shikh Sanatorium in 1985. In 2000 the land was transferred to Bibiheybat municipality, but the ownership stayed the same. Thus, Shikh sanatorium still owned the land, when the rent agreement with Hasanov was signed.
“If, for the sake of objectivity, respected journalists paid more attention to the truthfulness of the accusations, they would see that the trade unions did not make a single step to cause this incident,” read the report.
Mehbaliyev, who denied having ever met Hasanov, or being in charge of his case, has been the chairman of the confederation since 1991. It is not the first time he is involved in a land dispute. A few years ago famous Azerbaijani lawyer Aslan Ismayilov had a disagreement with him, too.
“Speaking to TV channels Sattar Mehbaliyev said he had nothing to do with this but it is a lie. As a person, who battled with him for almost two years I can say with confidence that he has a personal interest in this case,” said Ismayilov in his interview with virtualaz.org. According to Ismayilov, Mehbaliyev repeatedly won lawsuits against him with the help of his close friend, chairman of the Supreme Court Ramiz Rzayev.
Ismayilov spoke about his friend, owner of Khayal Holding Fikret Rajabov, who hanged himself in his summerhouse in 2006.
“Fikret Rajabov owned Khayal restaurant in Zagulba (seaside area of Baku). Sattar Mehbaliyev forcefully took away that restaurant. Fikret personally told me that, not long before he killed himself. He got in a huge debt and committed suicide,” said Ismayilov.
Mehbaliyev is said to earn millions through the abovementioned Kurort JSC and has close connections in the government. His nephew Seymur Orujov chairs the youth wing of the ruling YAP party; his brother Faiq Mehbaliyev is the chairman of the Binagadi branch of the Ministry of National Security; and his son Isfandiyar Mehbaliyev is the head of the police department in Piralahi region. Mehbaliyev’s children are married to children of Shamsaddin Hajiyev, another Member of Parliament and director of State Economic University, and Ali Hasanov, head of the socio-political department of the Presidential Administration.
Speaking of which, following a major public outcry, on December 27, Ali Hasanov issued a statement on behalf of President Ilham Aliyev:
“Mr. President has given necessary instructions to the relevant bodies to ensure the treatment of the war veteran and assist his family. We hope Zaur Hasanov will recover and return to his family soon,” Hasanov said, according to APA News Agency.
In addition, Trade Unions Confederation made a decision to provide Hasanov’s five children with a monthly stipend of 300 AZN ($382) each till their coming of age. A compensation of 100,000 AZN ($127,000) would be issued to Hasanov for the demolished facility and he and his wife would be “employed if necessary.”
Hasanov passed away the next day.
Most state news sources reported the incident only after the government issued the official response.