More than a dozen sentenced to lengthy prison terms over Ganja events

14 people were handed prison sentences between six and eight years for their alleged involvement in the protests that followed the failed assassination attempt of Ganja’s then-mayor, Elmar Valiyev, and the death of two police officers.

A municipal building is seen at the main square in Ganja, Azerbaijan, July 12, 2018. Picture taken July 12, 2018. REUTERS/Staff – RC1179E3EC90

Fourteen people trialed over the July 2018 Ganja events, which saw a failed assassination attempt on the mayor of the city and the


of two police officers during protests that followed, were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, according to a verdict by the Sabunchu District Court from 1 March.

A first group of people stood accused of organizing or participating in mass disorders along with use of violence, firearms and explosives as well as armed resistance against authorities, among other charges. All six defendants were handed prison sentences between six and eight years.

Eight more people were sentenced in another hearing, which was closed to the public.

The investigation continues. According to the

Prosecutor’s Office

, some 29 people were detained in connection to the assassination attempt, and 59 others were arrested over the protests during which two policemen were killed.

The Background Story

On 3 July 2018, the then mayor of Ganja, Elmar Valiyev, and his bodyguard were shot and wounded in the city center in a failed assassination attempt. Yunis Safarov, a Russian citizen but resident of Ganja, was detained at the scene as the main suspect.

One week later, on 10 July, a group of 200 people followed online calls to gather in the center of Azerbaijan’s second largest city. They demanded not only proper investigation into the attack on Valiyev – dismissed by authorities as part of an Islamist scheme to establish Sharia law in Azerbaijan – but also into his rule as mayor, reportedly notorious for corruption and abuse of power.

Two police officers trying to disperse the crowd were killed, with authorities again blaming Islamist radicals.

By the end of summer, dozens of people had been arrested and six alleged suspects were killed by authorities. Activists have


the on-going investigation into the events as non-transparent.

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