ECHR: Ilkin Rustamzadeh detained unlawfully, without reasonable suspicion

The youth activist, a vocal critic of the government, has been behind bars since 2013 and was arrested for allegedly breaching public order by uploading the video of a popular dance to YouTube.

On 7 March, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)


that N!DA youth activist Ilkin Rustamzadeh, who has been behind bars since 2013, was “arrested and detained without reasonable a suspicion that he had committed a criminal offence.” The Court found that Rustamzadeh’s right to liberty and security, which constitutes Article 5.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, had been violated. The Azerbaijani government was ordered to pay Rustamzadeh €20,000 for non-pecuniary damage and €2,500 for costs and expenses.

In March 2013, Rustamzadeh was arrested for allegedly uploading a video that shows a group of his friends performing the 'Harlem Shake', a popular dance with sexually suggestive movements, to YouTube. The youth activist was charged with hooliganism for breaching public order and "manifesting disrespect towards society".

Prior to his arrest, he and other N!DA activists had participated in a number of demonstrations in Baku to protest against the government's reluctance to investigate non-combat soldier deaths in the Azerbaijani army.

The Court found it was “not at all clear” how recording a dance video and uploading it to YouTube could be considered a grave breach of public order or hooliganism. It concluded that the facts relied on by Azerbaijani authorities could not reasonably be considered to constitute criminal behavior, and that Rustamzadeh had been unlawfully detained on groundless suspicion.

After his arrest, Rustamzadeh was kept in pretrial detention for almost one year, as his appeals were denied and other charges were brought against him, including stifling mass disorder and various arms offences. In May 2014, he was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Rustamzadeh’s family and friends say he is under constant pressure and, as many other political prisoners, subjected to

stricter prohibitions

than other prisoners. In summer 2018, Rustamzadeh published a


saying that the time in prison was taking its toll on him, that he was feeling powerless and as if he was slowly being killed every day .

A second application from Rustamazdeh to the ECHR is still ongoing.

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