“This is a great moment for Intigam Aliyev and his family, and for all of us that have worked for and are now celebrating his release,” commented Ane Tusvik Bonde, Regional Manager for Eastern Europe and Caucasus at Human Rights House Network. “Intigam Aliyev is a prominent human rights lawyer and a mentor for other lawyers and activists. His release can give hope for improvements on human rights in Azerbaijan.”
When detained, Intigam Aliyev represented many Azerbaijanis at the European Court of Human Rights. The charges against him and his detention have deprived many Azerbaijani citizens of their right to appeal and seek justice before the court, and it is only with full rehabilitation of his rights that he will be able to continue this essential work.
On 17 March 2016, the authorities in Azerbaijan released more than a dozen political prisoners, as part of a presidential pardon of 148 detainees on the eve of the spring Novruz holiday (Azerbaijan New Year celebration). Following this, and other recent releases, Intigam Aliyev, Anar Mammadli, Rasul Jafarov, Arif and Leyla Yunus, and many other human rights defenders, journalists, and activists are now free.
“These human rights defenders should never have been in prison. They were targeted for their human rights work, and the authorities must fully address this by overturning their sentences and reinstating their civil and political rights, enabling them to work and to travel,” continued Bonde.
“Many other human rights defenders and journalists, including Khadija Ismayilova, are still in prison in Azerbaijan. We will continue fighting against their wrongful detention. The authorities in the country must release and fully rehabilitate all human rights defenders, and end the cycle of repression in which human rights defenders are targeted and imprisoned,” concluded Bonde.
On 28 March 2016, Intigam Aliyev gave the following statement on his release, in an interview with Meydan TV.
“I am having a double feeling now. I don’t want to talk of the decision of the Plenum. Of course, I am happy for being free as I think it is unfair to sit in the prison as if in vacation now, when my friends outside work hard in these difficult times. So, in this regard it is good to be free again as now I will take some of the workload back on my shoulders. On the other hand, I feel upset as some of my friends are still in jail. I would with pleasure exchange my freedom for their freedom. But in general, the process is ongoing – soon my friends will be set free too. And Azerbaijan will be free soon as well. I don’t have any doubt in it.”
“Despite of so many repressions and pressure the Azerbaijani society continues working towards freedom and democracy. This gives us hope and it gave us hope in the prison too. The support we received from our friends, colleagues, civil society, political parties, international community and ordinary citizens proved that this society’s thirst for freedom is indeed very high and it is impossible to suppress it with arrests, pressure and repressions. I thank you all! I was not so sorry for being in jail for a year and 8 months, but I am very sorry now seeing that you have been waiting for me so long. I would like to thank each of you. Many hugs to you and my gratitude.”
Intigam Aliyev is one of the most widely respected human rights lawyers in Azerbaijan, and he has been at the forefront of rights advocacy in the country for two decades. He is the head of the officially registered Legal Education Society, an organisation that promotes awareness of the law and provides legal support to individuals and organisations.
Intigam Aliyev was arrested in August 2014, and in April 2015 he was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison on politically motivated charges. Prior to this, he was excluded from the Bar Association and targeted with bureaucratic and legal harassment, as documented in HRHN’s report Breaking Point in Azerbaijan.
In October 2015, Intigam Aliyev received the International Bar Association Human Rights Award 2015 for his dedicated fight to uphold human rights and the rule of law in Azerbaijan.
HRHN’s Human Rights Lawyers at Risk report highlighted Intigam Aliyev’s case and those of other lawyers targeted for their human rights work.