No announcement yet.

Azerbaijan: Political opposition leaders must receive fair trial

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Azerbaijan: Political opposition leaders must receive fair trial

    Amnesty International
    AI Index: EUR 55/001/2004 (Public)
    News Service No: 113
    4 May 2004

    Azerbaijan: Political opposition leaders must receive fair trial

    Amnesty International today called on the Azerbaijani authorities to
    ensure that seven leading members of the political opposition in
    Azerbaijan receive a fair trial in line with international standards.

    Rauf Arifoglu, a deputy chairman of the Musavat (Equality) party and
    editor-in-chief of the Yeni Musavat opposition newspaper, Arif Hajili
    and Ibrahim Ibrahimli, also deputy chairmen of Musavat, Panah
    Huseynov, chairman of the Khalq (People) party, Etimad Asadov,
    chairman of the Karabakh's Invalids Association, Sardar Jalologlu,
    the executive secretary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Party and Igbal
    Agazade, the chairman of the Umid (Hope) party are due to go on trial
    at the Court for Grave Crimes in Baku later this week for their
    alleged participation in violent clashes between opposition
    supporters and law enforcement officers in the wake of the
    presidential elections in October 2003. All seven political opponents
    are reportedly accused of having masterminded the post-election
    violence and are charged with organizing mass disturbances (Article
    220 part one of the Azerbaijani Criminal Code) and endangering the
    life or health of representatives of the authorities by means of
    force (Article 315 part two) - charges which they have consistently
    denied since their pre-trial arrests in October 2003.

    Amnesty International is concerned about allegations that, after they
    were reportedly arbitrarily detained, some of the seven opposition
    politicians were tortured by members of the Ministry of Internal
    Affair's (MVD) Organized Crime Unit (OCU) to force them to confess to
    having organized or participated in the post-election violence and to
    denounce the opposition electoral bloc Bizim Azerbaijan (Our
    Azerbaijan) and its presidential candidate, Isa Gambar, the chairman
    of Musavat and runner-up in the election, who had been placed under
    house arrest.

    For example, on 17 October masked OCU officers detained Iqbal
    Agazadeh at his home, after a special session of parliament had
    stripped him of his parliamentary immunity earlier that day. On the
    way to the OCU offices he was allegedly repeatedly punched in the
    face with a steel-reinforced glove. At the OCU he was reportedly
    severely beaten and tortured during three days in order to force him
    to denounce Isa Gambar in a television interview on 20 October, after
    which he was allowed access to his lawyer. His lawyer told the
    international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch that
    Iqbal Agazadeh's body was covered in bruises and that he had been hit
    some 50 times on one leg.

    Others were reportedly detained in cruel, inhuman and degrading
    conditions. Rauf Arifoglu told members of the international press
    freedom organization Reporters without Borders, who visited him in
    pre-trial detention in Bailov prison in Baku, that he had been held
    in solitary confinement for 32 days and forced to sleep on the floor
    of an unheated cell for 18 days. He went on hunger strike in December
    2003 and again in February 2004 together with dozens of opposition
    detainees to protest their arrests, which they believe were

    "Such ill-treatment and torture are against basic human rights
    principles endorsed by Azerbaijan when it signed and ratified the
    European Convention on Human Rights and if substantiated cast serious
    doubts on Azerbaijan's commitment to the respect of human rights and
    the rule of law," the organization said.

    Amnesty International is further concerned about reports from earlier
    trials of opposition activists, accused of having taken part in the
    post-election violence, that evidence based on confessions extracted
    under torture was admitted in court. The organization reminds the
    Azerbaijani authorities of their obligations under international fair
    trial standards not to admit such evidence in court and to promptly
    and impartially investigate all allegations of torture and
    ill-treatment and bring the perpetrators to justice.

    In August 2003 President Heydar Aliyev appointed his son, Ilham
    Aliyev, as Prime Minister. Two weeks before presidential elections on
    15 October, he resigned as President and withdrew his candidacy in
    favour of his son who went on to win the elections by a large margin,
    as the sole candidate, for the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan (New
    Azerbaijan) party. The elections were marred by widespread voting
    irregularities, including ballot box stuffing, multiple voting and
    intimidation of voters and election observers. Scores of election
    officials who refused to sign flawed election protocols during the
    vote count were reportedly threatened and detained. Violent clashes
    between opposition activists protesting election irregularities and
    officers from the police and MVD special forces in the centre of the
    capital Baku on 16 October left hundreds of protestors and dozens of
    police officers injured, many seriously, and claimed at least one
    death. Over 50 independent and opposition journalists covering the
    demonstration were reportedly severely beaten by police and several
    were detained along with scores of protestors and bystanders. There
    were credible reports that large numbers of opposition activists or
    supporters and members of their families were intimidated and
    dismissed from their jobs following the election because of their
    political affiliation.

    Hundreds of opposition activists, officials and supporters - mainly,
    but not exclusively, of the Musavat party - were detained throughout
    the country reportedly for "instigating, organizing or participating
    in violent activities". Most were sentenced to short-term
    administrative detention but more than a hundred were remanded in
    custody. To date 118 opposition activists have been tried in separate
    court cases for their alleged participation in the post-election
    violence. Thirty three men received prison sentences of between three
    and six years while the rest received suspended sentences. Among
    those who received a conditional sentence was human rights activist
    and imam of the independent Juma mosque, Ilgar Ibrahimoglu. He was
    released on 2 April.