Death in Prison of Azerbaijani Blogger Highly Suspicious, Activists Say

Azerbaijani blogger Mehman Qalandarov was found dead in his prison cell on April 28.

Azerbaijani blogger Mehman Qalandarov was found dead in his prison cell on April 28.

He was being held in Baku Detention Facility No. 1. Azerbaijani human rights activists published the news on Facebook. From the scene, it appeared as if Qalandarov had hung himself in his cell.

The PR Department of the Penitentiary Service claims “we have contacted the leadership of the Baku Detention Facility No.1. We were informed that this information is absolutely untrue. Mehman Qalandarov is alive, healthy and is not complaining about anything”.

Mehman Qalandarov’s sister confirmed her brother’s death.

“We still do not know the reasons for his suicide. My husband collected his body from the morgue”, she said.

Chairman of the National Democratic Party of Azerbaijan Qalandar Mukhtarli told Voice of America Azerbaijani Serice that he himself saw M. Qalandarov’s body on April29, at 14:00 in the morgue of the Sabunchu district hospital in Baku.

“This morning I was supposed to meet Mehman at the prison. I received a call and was informed of his death. I myself went to the morgue, asked to see his face, saw with my own eyes the traces of the rope on his neck, the injuries and seams on the body. The husband of his sister Yagub took his body from the morgue”, Mukhtarli told Voice of America.

Mehman Qalandarov was arrested on February 7, 2017. He was charged with drug possession, and sentenced to three months pre-trial detention.

On the day of his arrest, Qalandarov wrote on his Facebook page: “We will all be like Qiyas. Do not be a slave”.

Qalandarov was referring to the events of May 2016, when Qiyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov were arrested for writing “happy slave day” on a monument to Heydar Aliyev in one of Baku’s downtown parks. The writing was a play on words in anticipation of the public holiday, “Flower Day”. Flower and slave are spelled similarly in Azerbaijani.

An hour later, police officers rushed into Qalandarov’s rented apartment and detained him.

Nasiminsky district court sentenced him to three months pre-trial detention.

He was one of the organizers of a protest in Tbilisi on September 26, 2010 at the embassy of Azerbaijan under the slogan “We do not want a king!”

He had formerly criticized the authorities on social networks, drew cartoons of the leadership of the country, published them on his Facebook page.

The name of Mehman Galandarov was included in the list of political prisoners prepared by Azerbaijani human rights activists.

The Institute for Peace and Democracy (IMD) issued a statement in connection with the death of blogger Mehman Qalandarov at Kurdamakh jail on April 28.

“As a person who spent more than 16 months in the cells of pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Kurdakhany, I testify that it is not possible to hang oneself in these cells without assistance”, said the director of the IMD, Leila Yunus.

In her view, the idea of ​​Qalandarov’s death as a suicide, “testifies to the fears of criminals in power to get on the list of persons against which the US will apply sanctions, according to the Law of Global Magnitsky adopted in December 2011”.

“We call on international human rights organizations, the Human Rights Committee of the European Parliament, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights to urge the Azerbaijani authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the causes of the death of this “prisoner of conscience”, Mehman Qalandarov. The silent cooperation of the European Union with the dictatorial regime pushes the development of Azerbaijan along the Syrian way”, the statement of the IMD says.

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