Release human rights defenders, journalists and activists

Members and partners of the Human Rights House Network and the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders are dismayed by the sentences upheld against human rights defender Rasul Jafarov and against human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev, two prominent and internationally respected voices of the Azerbaijani civil society. They call upon the Azerbaijani President to put an end to the unprecedented repression against civil society and release human rights defenders, journalists and activists.

In a joint letter to President Ilham Aliyev, 52 NGOs from 9 Human Rights Houses expressed their dismay following the sentencing of their colleague and prominent lawyer Intigam Aliyev, a week after the sentencing of Rasul Jafarov.

On 22 April 2015, the Court for Grave Crimes in Baku sentenced Intigam Aliyev to 7 years and 6 months of detention on bogus charges of illegal business, misappropriation, tax evasion, abuse of office and forgery. Although Intigam Aliyev’s defence brought documentation to the court that all his grants were registered, as of the entry into force of such an obligation for NGOs in Azerbaijan, in violation of basic principles in regard to freedom of association as found by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. The NGOs hence denounce the sentencing of Intigam Aliyev and believe the charges brought against him are politically motivated, and a direct consequence of his human rights work.

In detention, Intigam Aliyev’s health condition has deteriorated and remains inadequately addressed by detention authorities. His conditions prior to his pre-trial detention since 8 August 2014 have continuously gotten worse, giving a strong indication that in fact the medication he is receiving in detention only addresses his pain and not his illness. The NGOs believe Intigam Aliyev’s detention conditions might have irremediable consequences on his health.

In the backdrop of an unprecedented repression against civil society in Azerbaijan, charges were also brought against many other human rights defenders, journalists and activists in Azerbaijan, either sentenced or held on pre-trial detention, such as Leyla Yunus, and her husband, Arif YunusAnar MammadliRauf Mirkadirov and Hilal MammadovTofiq YaqubluIlgar Mammadov, various NIDA activists, as well as investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova. Charges are also brought against many human rights NGOs, such as the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) and human rights defenders either forced into hiding, such as IRFS’s leader Emin Huseynov, or have left the country.

On 16 April 2015, the human rights defender Rasul Jafarov was sentenced to 6.5 years imprisonment, also on similar charges as Intigam Aliyev. The court ignored that out of the many so-called “victims” who were interrogated by the court did in fact have no knowledge of any damage supposedly committed by Rasul Jafarov against them. The NGOs also denounce the sentencing of Rasul Jafarov and believe the charges brought against him are politically motivated, due to his human rights work.

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