Friday Wrap-up: flooded cell, Ibadoglu’s letter and embezzlement in Nakhchivan

Illustration: Meydan TV

This week saw journalist Sevinj Vagifqizi’s bad prison conditions, Gubad Ibadoglu’s letter read in the EU Parliament and two officials accused of embezzling 150 million AZN in Nakhchivan.

Lawyer: “The cell where Sevinj Vagifgiz is kept was flooded”

Sevinj Vagifgizi, the editor-in-chief of “AbzasMedia,” has expressed dissatisfaction with the conditions at Baku Detention Center No. 1, where she is currently detained.

Her lawyer, Elchin Sadigov, told Meydan TV that Vagifgizi described her cell as lacking proper heating and suffering from flooding caused by burst pipes. Despite an appeal led by Judge Elmar Rahimov on March 19, the decision to extend Vagifgizi’s detention was upheld, leveraging discussions about the fairness of the judicial process.

The response of the Penitentiary Service to Vagifgizi’s complaints remains undisclosed. Vagifgizi, who was arrested on November 21, 2023, on smuggling charges, has consistently denied the allegations, arguing they are politically motivated due to her journalistic activities.

Gubad Ibadoglu’s letter is read in the EU Parliament

Economist Gubad Ibadoglu’s letter to the European Union Parliament has drawn attention to the conditions within Azerbaijani detention centers. Read by Jala Bayramova during a recent parliamentary meeting, the letter outlined issues such as overcrowding, insufficient medical care, and Ibadoglu’s health struggles while incarcerated.

In his letter, Ibadoglu connected his imprisonment to his professional activities as an economist and political activist. He cited his investigations into corruption within Azerbaijan’s leadership and his research on the country’s oil and gas industry as contributing factors to his arrest. Additionally, he appealed to the EU to support Ukraine amidst ongoing tensions with Russia and to prioritize human rights and anti-corruption efforts in its engagements with Azerbaijan.

Highlighting concerns about the reliability of Azerbaijan’s commitment to green energy, Ibadoglu urged the EU to look beyond surface-level assurances. The professor also made parallels between his and Navalny’s arrest. Ibadoglu has been detained since July 23, 2023.

Former minister and head of a department are accused of embezzling 150 million AZN

The trial of two officials accused of embezzling 150 million AZN has begun in Nakhchivan. Former finance minister Rafael Aliyev and former head of the Department of Customs Tariff Regulation and Payments, Mansur Askerov, are set to appear before the Nakhchivan Serious Crimes Court on April 1, with a preparatory meeting scheduled for the same day.

Rafael Aliyev and Mansur Askerov were detained in November 2022 during operations conducted by the State Security Service in Nakhchivan. Other officials apprehended during these operations, including Sahat Habibbayli and Hijran Rustamov, were brought to Baku’s DTX detention center. While some were released after detention, the investigation into their alleged offenses continues.

Aliyev and Askerov face charges under Article 179.4 of the Criminal Code for embezzlement of a large amount, among other charges. Aliyev, who served as Minister of Finance until his arrest, is accused of misappropriating 144 AZN manats, while Askerov, his successor at the Customs Committee, faces allegations related to the misappropriation of 132 million AZN.

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