On December 1, an attempt was made to protest for the release of Saleh Rustamov in Baku’s Fountain Park. Police isolated the area before the rally, but participants were able to find their way into the park.
The Baku police detained the protesters, forcing them into police cars and driving them away. This is a common practice of Azerbaijani police to stop undesirable manifestations by removing people from the protest’s location.
Saleh Rustamov was arrested in May 2018 and has been in hunger strike for 26 days now. He is an old member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), one of the main opposition party to the current government.
Living in Russia since 1998, Rustamov was detained when coming to visit his relatives in Azerbaijan and charged with drug trafficking and money laundry.
Together with Rustamov, another five people from the APFP were also arrested with the same accusations. The party claimed that the case was fabricated and is a perpetuation of years of repression against the party.
The hunger strike started in the occasion of the “Victory Day” in Azerbaijan, when president Ilham Aliyev established the holiday one year after the end of the Fall 2020 War. Combined with the celebrations, Aliyev released a long list granting amnesty to different groups of people, ranging from former combatants of World War II to people involved in last year’s disputes. The name of Rustamov was expected to be in the list, however, it was not. Because of this, he is using the hunger strike as a political tool of protest.