Twelve family members of Azerbaijani opposition blogger Ordukhan Teymurkhan were detained by Azerbaijani police in Baku on February 18.
The arrest occurred after Mr. Teymurkhan took part in the pro-democratic “Free Political Prisoners” protest, held in Cologne, Germany on the same day.
Azerbaijani police from the Surakhani District Department in Baku informed Teymurkhan about his relatives’ arrest by phone on the same day. The blogger’s sisters and his two-years-old niece were among the detainees.
You can hear the phone conversation here below with English subtitles.
It is speculated that the disapproval of the Azerbaijani government expressed by the blogger from abroad seems to be the reason behind the arrests.
Teymurkhan told Meydan TV that head of the Surakhani District Police Station Hasanov Namiq told him to stop his political activities:
“Stop your activity, shut down your Facebook page, and then we will release your relatives”.
Teymurkhan said that later, a police officer who refused to identify himself called and said, “if you were a real man, we wouldn’t have brought your sisters here…”
The day after the arrest, the women and his niece – a two-year-old child – were released. While the majority of the detainees were released later on, Mr. Teymurkhan’s older brother and his sister’s son are still incarcerated. They are accused of resisting a police order and the court has handed them a 30-day sentence.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs has not responded to calls from Meydan TV over the past three days.
Ordukhan Teymurkhan has been living in the Netherlands for several years, and has no affiliation with any political party neither in Azerbaijan, nor in the Netherlands.
It is not the first time that the Azerbaijani government has arrested the relatives of political activists living abroad.
Ali Karimli, the Head of the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party, said that it is a common practice for the police to harass activists’ families.
“İt’s the government’s conscious policy to put pressure on political activists through their families”, Mr. Karimli wrote on his personal Facebook page.
Earlier this year, the blogger’s sister, nephew and brother-in-law publicly renounced him.
Head of Meydan TV Emin Milli has urged citizens to speak out against oppression.
“The more that such acts of barbarism will be ignored, the more this cancer of barbarism and fascism will spread in the member states of the Council of Europe. It is time to act. Specific measures, against specific officials that violate human rights are necessary. Autocrats will only learn to respect human rights when they feel raw power. Target them with individual and financial sanctions first, gain an advantage and then negotiate more liberal values. Not before, because otherwise, they will just laugh. If you want to prevent the liberal world order from collapsing, then take Ordukhan’s case and teach the criminals in power a powerful lesson”, Milli wrote on his Facebook page.