Young activists placed under four month detention, facing fake charges of drug possession and intent to distribute.
On May 12th, the Khatai District Court placed Bayram Mammadov under a four month arrest for drug charges.
Fellow activist, Qiyas Ibrahimov, is also due to arrive in court. The activists have both been accused of possession of narcotics and intent to sell and distribute by articles 234.4.1 and 234.4.3 of the Criminal Code, and may face up to 12 years of imprisonment if convicted.
It is suspected that the young activists were detained for their involvement in the appearance of graffiti on a statue of Heydar Aliyev in a Baku park on the night of May 9th.
The Azerbaijani inscription read: “Happy Slave Day!”, a play on words of the phrase, “Happy Flower Day!”
A second message declared: “f**k the system.”
The youths refused an offer made to them by the court: “Let AzTv come, and film the two of you apologizing to the statue. And we’ll let you go.”
Flower Day, Slave Day
Flower Day, celebrated annually on the 10th of May in Azerbaijan, coincides with the birthday of ex – Azerbaijani President, Heydar Aliyev. Several million flowers are ordered from more than fifty countries around the world, including Holland, France, Italy, Korea and China, and then arranged for the public’s enjoyment in a series of brightly colored installations in Baku and in other large, regional cities across Azerbaijan.
The holiday has consistently disgruntled many members of civil society, who feel that the spending of tens of millions of dollars is inexcusable when many citizens of the country continue to struggle to make a living.
The holiday lasts three days, after which citizens and tourists to the capital are invited to scoop up the flowers for themselves. The resulting pandemonium and chaos has led many to refer to the day not as Flower Day, but as Slave Day.
Baku’s City Administration chose to celebrate Flower Day differently this year, cutting down on the size of the budget of the holiday. The military activities of early April and the financial difficulties currently being faced by the country were cited by the Administration as causes for the holiday’s cancellation. Instead, government workers were observed planting trees and flowers around Baku, and local citizens were also invited to display their own initiative and participate similarly.
According to information provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, a search and seizure operation conducted on the night of the 10th supposedly resulted in the discovery of nearly 3 grams of heroin on Bayram Mammadov’s person, in addition to another supposed 1.150 kilograms at his domicile. Qiyas Ibrahimov was similarly charged with possession of 2.6 grams of heroin, and of storing an additional 1.10 kilograms at his residence.
The operation was carried out by the Sabuncu 12th, Nesimi 22nd and Nizami 25th police divisions.
Mammadov’s relatives reported that his involvement in drugs is purely fictional: “He hasn’t so much as touched a cigarette. They planted these drugs on them, after they forcefully and without warning entered the house… The boy doesn’t know a thing about drugs.”
Drug charges brought against youth activists are not a new occurrence; members of NIDA Civic Movement and other social activists have been regularly detained in the past with drug charges on numerous occasions.
The youths’ lawyer, Elchin Sadiqov, was not permitted to see his clients and wrote on his personal Facebook page:
“I was just at Narimanov Police Station, where I intended to meet with Bayram Mammadov and Qiyas Ibrahimov. On approaching their cell, I saw that they were being forced to sweep the floors, and that they were terrified of their captors.”
The lawyer says that he verbally objected to his clients’ being subjected to such treatment and that, as a result, he was expelled from the temporary detention center and not given permission to see his clients.
Sadiqov also asserted that: “cameras have captured footage of Mammadov and Ibrahimov’s subjugation to inhumane treatment, torture and forced – labor.”
40 Days After the 4 Day War
The 4 Day War, a conflict that arose between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Nagorno Karabakh along the Line of Contact, began on April 1st. It is estimated by independent sources that Azerbaijan lost around 100 armed service members in the fighting.
May 10th, Flower Day and ex – President Heydar Aliyev’s birthday, marked the end of the 40 – day traditional mourning period as observed in Azerbaijan. Frustration over the losses incurred by Azerbaijani families during the war would have been at a high, and may account for the appearance of the graffiti in addition to frustration over the perceived wasteful spending of Flower Day.