Anar Mammadli and Bashir Suleymanli must be released

On 26 May 2014 the Court on Grave Crimes has sentenced the two Azerbaijan human rights defenders Anar Mammadli and Bashir Suleymanli to respectively 5 years and 6 months imprisonment and 3 years and 6 months.

After the recent presidential elections on 9 October 2013, Mr. Anar Mammadli, the Chairperson of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS), along with EMDS’ Executive Director, Mr. Bashir Suleymanli, and Elnur Mammadov, president of the Volunteers of International Cooperation were brought to court on far-fetched charges.

Anar Mammadli was called to the Prosecutor’s Office in the evening on 16 December 2013 at 16:30 for interrogation in regard to the criminal case opened soon after the presidential election of 9 October. The criminal case was opened with charges of tax evasion, illegal business activity, and abuse of authority.

Anar Mammadli was kept on pre-trial detention since December 2013.

Two United Nations special rapporteurs have called for the immediate release of Anar Mammadli and for all charges against him and his colleagues to be dropped. “The fact that independent United Nations experts view the charges as being fabricated highlights that the present legal procedure aims at punishing human rights defenders such as Anar Mammadli and his colleagues due to their work, not at ensuring the rule of law,” Florian Irminger, Head of Advocacy of the Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF), said when the rapporteurs statement was issued. 

On 12 May 2014, in a letter to Judge Rauf Aliyev of the Court on Grave Crimes, HRHF called upon the Judge and the Prosecutor General’s Office to follow the analysis made by the UN experts and to “drop all charges against Anar Mammadli, Bashir Suleymanli and Elnur Mammadov immediately.”

In a joint written declaration submitted at the January 2014 session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), 61 members of parliaments from Council of Europe member States have also called upon the authorities of Azerbaijan to release Anar Mammadli.

Member NGOs of the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders and the Human Rights House Network in a joint letter of 12 November 2013 called upon the President and the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Azerbaijan to put an end to the investigations into the activities of EMDS, which they consider as a harassment diminishing its independence and impeding on the right to freedom of association. The NGOs stated that they see the case opened against EMDS as “related to the organisation’s activities and its conclusions in regard to the Presidential elections of 9 October 2013. Its conclusions are documented, fact-based and provide important first-hand information to international actors. Hence, it is a disturbing voice – as the Election Monitoring Centre was until May 2008.”

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