[Updated July 4] On July 1, the Sabunchu district court of Baku dismissed human rights activist and journalist Elchin Mammad’s application for parole in connection with serving half of his prison term according to reporting by Turan News Agency. Mammad’s lawyer said they intend to file an appeal as the court’s decision is unreasonable. In an interview with Turan News Agency, Mammad’s mother, Rahila Mammad, said her son continues the hunger strike and that after this decision, he was placed in a punishment cell.
[Update June 28] Elchin Mammad, said he was denouncing his Azerbaijani citizenship and going on hunger strike again ahead of the Supreme Court hearing scheduled for July 13. In a statement viewed by Turan News Agency, the rights defender said he has taken this decision having exhausted all the possibilities to achieve justice and having no faith in the fair ruling of the domestic courts. Mammad said he is giving up his citizenship and requests asylum in one of the EU member states. According to the reporting by Turan News Agency, the court of first instance is scheduled to review Mammad’s application for parole having served half of his original sentence on July 1. The prospects of receiving a favorable decision are slim, as the Commission of the Prison Service, has already issued a negative assessment for the request. And on July 13, the Supreme Court will review Mammad’s cassation appeal against the denial of the parole after serving one-third of the sentence. In practice, a citizen of Azerbaijan can denounce their citizenship after submitting an official request through a court. The final decision and the signing of that decision belongs to the President.
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.