Nardaran convict starts hunger strike in prison

Babakishizade last spoke to his family on phone on 26 August.

Jahad Babakishizadeh, who was convicted of terrorism as part of a high-profile Nardaran case, has gone on a hunger strike by sewing his mouth in a closed prison in Azerbaijan.

Twenty-three year-old Babakishizadeh, who was sentenced to jail five years ago, took this step to protest the prison authorities' ill-treatment and torture of him and other prisoners, his family members told Meydan TV.

Babakishizade last spoke to his family on phone on 26 August, when he warned them about his intention to start a hunger strike and sew his mouth shut after he was put in a punishment cell without reason in Gobustan prison, to the southwest of the capital city of Baku.

“The injustice and arbitrariness have culminated in jail. The prisoners are treated as if they are enemies and slaves,” Babakishizade was quoted as saying by his family members, adding that prisoners' telephone conversations were being listened to.

“That is why Jahad said that if the telephone conversation was interrupted, be aware that I would start a hunger strike and sew my mouth.”

Their phone talk was interrupted, the family members said, as the authorities did not want the humiliating treatment of prisoners to become public.

Two days later Babakishizadeh´s family learned from another prisoner that he stopped eating and sewed his mouth shut.

“He said that the authorities treat prisoners like slaves. They punish and torture them whenever they want. There are no rules or laws. They humiliate people in jail”, the prisoner added.

Mehman Sadigov, head of the penitentiary system’s public-relations department, neither confirmed nor denied the incident.

“If the relatives of the convict think that there is any illegal action against him in jail, they should officially apply to the penitentiary system, and their appeal would be investigated,” Sadigov said.

Babakishizadeh's family members also added that he had serious health issues.

Babakishizadeh was sentenced to 14 years and 6 months in prison in 2015 after raids were launched against alleged religious extremists in Nardaran, a village on the outskirts of Baku. Seven people, including two police officers, were killed during the raids.

Those convicted and sentenced include Taleh Bagirzade, leader of the Movement for Muslim Unity, which was part of President Ilham Aliyev's government silencing of opponents, critics argue.

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