Human Rights Watch on Azerbaijan in 2017

HRW: Authorities stifle critics, impede work of independent groups

REUTERS/Orhan Orhanov
REUTERS/Orhan Orhanov

On 18 January, the international organization Human Rights Watch released an annual report about the state of rights and freedoms around the world in 2017.

The report’s

section about Azerbaijan

says that the government intensified its crackdown on its critics. The courts sentenced at least 25 journalists and activists to long periods of imprisonment in politically motivated and unfair trials. Dozens more were detained or under investigation, persecuted, and banned from traveling abroad.

To give just a few examples of prominent human rights scandals of 2017:

In January, the courts sentenced a group of 18 people, including prominent theologian Taleh Baghirzadeh, to long periods of imprisonment, although the defendants were reportedly

tortured in custody

.

In March, video blogger Mehman Huseynov was

sentenced to two years

in prison for allegedly libeling the police.

In May, Popular Front of Azerbaijan Party (PFAP) Deputy Chairwoman, Gozal Bayramli,

was arrested

on charges of smuggling. Investigative journalist Afgan Mukhtarli

was kidnapped

in Tbilisi and illegally delivered to Azerbaijan, where he was charged with illegally crossing the border and smuggling a large sum of money into the country. That same month, the government

blocked access

to several opposition websites, including the Azerbaijani service of Radio Liberty, the newspaper Azadliq, and the website of Meydan TV.

In July, a court

convicted

Faig Amirli, the financial director of the opposition newspaper Azadliq, on charges of inciting religious hatred, and tax evasion. Fuad Ahmadli, another PFAP activist, was

sentenced to four years

in prison on charges of misusing personal data.

In August, Mehman Aliyev, the director of Turan News Agency,

was arrested

on charges of tax evasion.

In October 2017, parliament

passed amendments

banning lawyers without bar membership from representing clients, which may further reduce the number of lawyers willing to take on politically sensitive cases.

Dozens of journalists and activists convicted in politically motivated trials remained in prison. Among them is Ilgar Mammadov, leader of the opposition movement Republican Alternative (REAL). He

remained in prison

despite a 2014 European Court of Human Rights judgment finding his imprisonment illegal.

Also still behind bars were journalists Seymur Hazi and Nijat Aliyev; youth activists Ilkin Rustamzadeh, Bayram Mammadov and Murad Adilov; and opposition politicians Mammad Ibrahim and Asif Yusifli.

The Azerbaijani government continued punitive measures against NGOs, making their work impossible. Several NGO leaders are still banned from traveling outside the country.

Ana səhifəNewsHuman Rights Watch on Azerbaijan in 2017