Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has said that cardinal steps are being taken to build up political ties on fairly safe ground and that no one should be persecuted for their political views.
“I have to once again reiterate that nobody in Azerbaijan should be persecuted for their political views, political affiliation or political activity,” Aliyev said in a videoconference with the newly appointed chief prosecutor Kamran Aliyev on 1 May.
Anar Mammadli, the head of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center, said in an interview with the RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service that despite the calls for political pluralism, the reality in the country is quite different.
According to him, the Azerbaijani government is not prone to hear the views of the human rights organizations and political parties in the country. At the very least, the sides might come together to discuss the reality, says Mammadli.
“You can sit around a table and argue with those who claim the opposite," Mammadli says adding, "Therefore, I think these views of the head of the state are more aimed at the international audience, international organizations.”
There are more than 100 political prisoners in the country. A large number of people are still called to the police and intimidated because of their posts on social media.
Human rights activist and the Real Party representative Rasul Jafarov wants to believe that what Aliyev says are not just empty words.
Jafarov told Turan new agency that nobody has unjustifiably been called a political prisoner. He also added that the issue has been substantiated and that they can submit it to any state and law enforcement agencies.
Saadat Jahangir, a member of the Popular Front Party (PFP) and an employee of the Azadlig newspaper, was taken to the Prosecutor General's Office for questioning on 1 May, the day the president had a videoconference with the new prosecutor general.
“If such things happen during the president's meeting, I think the president should react first,” Jafarov said adding, “any steps taken against someone due to his position, activity or affiliation are unacceptable.”
The Prosecutor General's Office and other authorities have not yet commented on the human rights activist's comments. However, deputy Razi Nurullayev said that he believes in the authenticity of the president's remarks.
According to Nurullayev, it manifests “a political and democratic opening in Azerbaijan.”
Nurullayev believes that there is no way back, as it is a requirement of the new world order.
“I think the Azerbaijani government already sees it, understands that a new political system is needed, and the opposition have to take its place in this new political system.”