Jailed journalist goes on hunger strike

23:08

Human rights defender and editor of an online platform “For the sake of progress,” Elchin Mammad was arrested in March 2020. The same year, Mammad was sentenced to four years behind bars on bogus charges of illegal possession of arms and stealing. According to allegations leveled against the journalist, stolen jewelry had been found in Elchin Mammad’s office. Meanwhile during his detention prosecution brought new charges against him accusing the journalist of illegal possession of arms. In his second year of the prison sentence, Mammad’s mother told the media her son was starting a hunger strike as of May 3. 

Back in October 2020, during his trial, Mammad refuted any of the claims pressed against him. “All of this has to do with my work as a human rights defender. It is a response to all of my critical reporting about human rights violations and critical of the authorities social media posts,” said Mammad. 

His decision to start the hunger strike is the journalist’s attempt to end injustice and to order his release. The day of the strike coincides with World Press Freedom Day. 

Mammad’s previous attempts to change the original sentence failed when in October of 2021, the regional court dismissed the motion to replace the journalist’s remaining time in jail with either a suspended prison sentence or non-custodial alternatives. The court’s decision was based on Mammad’s refusal to confess to the crimes he was accused of. At the time, Mammad’s attorney Fariz Namazli said, the court’s decision contradicted the requirements of the legislation and the legal position of the Plenum of the Supreme Court on this issue. The appeal to the October decision was rejected too two months later in December 2021. 

In November 2021, Mammad appealed to national and international human rights organizations asking for help. 

Following his sentence in October, Amnesty International issued a statement in which it described the allegations leveled against Mammad as bogus calling on the local authorities to release Mammad immediately. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, also said in a statement that the decision to arrest Mammad was arbitrary. 

Mammad’s name also appeared in the Justice for Journalists statement. The journalist was among six journalists and bloggers who remained behind bars in Azerbaijan as of June 2021.

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