government in Azerbaijan threatens activists with interpol, again [update September 14]

On September 8, seven Azerbaijani dissidents who now live in various cities across Europe were targeted by the government of Azerbaijan. In addition to being formally charged with a crime in their absence and arrest warrants issued, the authorities have vowed to ask Interpol for their extradition.

The story goes back to last year when an Azerbaijani blogger, Elvin Isayev was extradited to Azerbaijan from Ukraine. Isayev lived in Russia since 1998 and was known for his critical views of the government. He acquired Russian citizenship in 2001. 19 years later, a court in St. Petersburg ruled to strip him of Russian citizenship and expel him. The following month Isayev moved to Ukraine, after an interim measure of the European Court of Human Rights called “Rule 39” suspended his deportation. Three months later he went missing only to appear in Azerbaijan where the Azerbaijan State Migration Service claimed Isayev was deported, a statement that was later refuted by Ukraine’s State Migration Service which said it never ordered Isayev’s deportation.

Few days after his “arrival” in Azerbaijan, Isayev was charged with calling for mass riots and public incitement against the ruling government. Now, the Prosecutor General office is seeking the deportation of seven men accusing them of the same crimes.

Ordukhan Babirov, Gurban Mammadov, Orkhan Agayev, Rafel Piriyev, Ali Hasanaliyev, Tural Sadigli, and Suleyman Suleymanli have been now charged in their absence. Many of these men are known for their online media activism, managing popular opposition YouTube channels, and for organizing street protests across European capitals in support of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, highlighting human rights violations and other advocacy engagements. One of the targeted men, popular activist, Ordukhan Babirov (known as Ordukhan Temirkhan Babirov) wrote in a Facebook post “[…] how many more times are they are going to give my name to Interpol”.

In an interview with OC-Media Tural Sadigli, activist and editor of Azad Soz [Free Speech] online news platform, said he faced a criminal case in 2019. “I was slighly surprised. They can’t reach us, they cannot stop our activities, so they use such forms of pressure,” Sadigli told OC Media.  

This is not the first time, the government in Azerbaijan is resorting to Interpol. But according to Interpol, “[it] cannot compel the law enforcement authorities in any country to arrest someone who is the subject of a Red Notice. Each member country decides what legal value it gives to a Red Notice and the authority of their law enforcement officers to make arrests.

The persecution against activists at home and abroad is on-going. For years, the ruling Baku tried silencing dissident voices both inside the country through threats, intimidation, and arrests and abroad through public shaming campaigns, and targeting of remaining family members. 

A week ago, a court in Baku sentenced veteran dissident Tofig Yagublu to four years and three months in jail on bogus charges. A campaign calling for his freedom #FreeTofigYagublu and #TofiqYaqubluyaAzadliq was launched and many of the targeted activists mentioned in this story have been rallying behind the campaign. Similarly, a youth activist who is among the organizers of the September 9 rally in support of Yagublu, was also targeted online and blackmailed. 

activist accused of intentionally spreading coronavirus [updated]

On July 20, activist Nijat Ibrahim, posted on his Facebook, that he was going to protest outside the Presidential Apparatus in the capital Baku. The main message of his one-man protest was calling on the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev to resign. The activist also said he demands that the government demolish all of the monuments of Haydar Aliyev. 

However, shortly after leaving his home, Ibrahim was detained by the police and charged with Article 139.1.1 of the Criminal Code (Violation of anti-epidemic, sanitary-hygienic, or quarantine regimes) specifically with spreading the virus. On July 21, Ibrahim’s wife, received a phone call informing her, her husband tested positive despite him never taking the testOn July 22, Nasimi district court found Ibrahim guilty and sentenced the activist to three months in pre-trial detention.

On July 28, Ibrahim’s lawyer filed a motion requesting the Center for Dangerous Infections at the Ministry of Health to provide information about the date Ibrahim was tested, and the results were made available to him. The court dismissed the motion.

According to the legislation, Ibrahim is facing 2500-5000AZN [1500-3000USD] fine, jail up to three years, or up to three years of restricted freedoms. 

Scores of political activists have been accused of a similar crime over recent weeks. 

political activist detained over social media post

June 27, member of an opposition party Popular Front, Faig Rashidov was sentenced to ten days in administrative detention on charges of violating the Code of Administrative Offenses Article 388.1 (placing online or on information/communication networks information otherwise banned).  

Rashidov was previously subject to pressure for his activism and political views.

Popular Front members have been regularly persecuted in recent months. Currently, at least 10 party members are behind bars. All are accused of various crimes, none however are legitimate, claim the party headquarters. 

in Azerbaijan TikToker gets detention time [updated]

June 22, Baku Court of Appeals rejected the TikToker’s appeal for release. In his defense, Elshan Teymurov said the main reason for his arrest – the circulated video – was made in 2019 and that he already spent 15 days in administrative detention at the time. Teymurov also added that he removed the video after his detention according to Meydan TV reporting.

Teymurov said, the video was uploaded on YouTube outside of his knowledge at the end of May and that he was arrested shortly after the video was shared.

June 2, TikToker Elshan Teymurov was arrested and sentenced to two months in administrative detention on drug possession charges and disobeying police. Teymurov says the charges are bogus and that he was detained over a YouTube video where he recites a verse on police violence.

teacher arrested over social media posts

On May 22, a high school teacher Jalil Zabidov was arrested and sentenced to five months in prison on charges of hooliganism according to reports. Zabidov was also a member of D18, an opposition movement.

According to his family members, and members of the D18 movement, Zabidov often shared stories and news of corruption in his village.

In October 2019 D18 was targeted online. Its Facebook page was hacked and the group lost thousands of followers. According to one of the movement’s founders, Ruslan Izzetli, the attack was targeted and was the result of a recent Facebook post the group shared on their page, calling on the current Minister of Internal Affairs, Vilayet Eyvazov’s resignation. 

two editors of online news platforms arrested

On May 13, editors Afgan Sadigov, from AzelTV and Sakit Muradov, from Xeberfakt.az were reportedly arrested on charges of extortion. The two were allegedly caught during operation. 

According to a statement issued by the Prosecutor General office, both men demanded a total of 15,000AZN from the officials at Sumgayit City Executive power in an exchange for not running a series of stories on their respective websites. The statement claims, both journalists were caught having received 10,000AZN. 

If found guilty, both journalists are facing up to ten years in jail. 

Previously Sadigov was arrested in November 2016 on charges of hooliganism. He was sentenced to two and a half years in jail in January 2017. Sadigov was released in May 2018. 

The same year, Sadigov was sentenced to 30 days in administrative detention for allegedly disobeying police orders. Upon his release, Sadigov said he was innocent and that he was tortured in detention. At the time, the Ministry of the Interior did not comment. 

In November 2018 Sadigov was sentenced once again to a month in prison on charges of disobeying police and/or military officer. 

Sadigov is known for his criticism of the government in his social media posts and statements. Ahead of this recent arrest, Sadigov reportedly shared a story about rape which was refuted by the Prosecutor General.  

social media users questioned over coronavirus posts [Last update June 26]

May 22, member of D18 political movement and administrator of a Facebook page “Say no to corruption”, Jalil Zabitov was arrested and sentenced to five months on hooliganism charges. 

April 22, member of opposition Popular Front party, Arif Babayev was sentenced to 30 days in administrative detention on charges of placing prohibited information online under Article 388.1.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses.

April 13,  journalist Ibrahim Vazirov with an online video news channel Kanal24 was arrested after police demanded he removes his online posts about the social and economic impact of COVID-19. Vazirov was sentenced to 25 days in administrative detention allegedly for disobeying police.

Several other journalists were detained while reporting on C19. 

April 11, activist Nariman Abdulla sentenced to ten days in administrative detention on the grounds of violating the anti-epidemic, sanitary-hygienic and quarantine regime according to Azadliq Radio. Abdulla was taken by the police, from his house on April 10 in the city of Lankaran. His family members claim his detention is the result of his posts and comments on social media. Abdulla criticized the Minister of Labor and Social Protection over a lack of assistance for the poor families during the quarantine regime.

April 6, political activist Shakir Mammadov questioned over Facebook post then arrested on charges of hooliganism and sentenced to 15 days in administrative detention according to AzadliqRadio report.

Mammadov described his arrest as unlawful. Mammadov said he had informed local police he was going to the pharmacy after having texted a specified number. As soon as he left the apartment, he was apprehended by the local police in the city of Sumgayit and taken to the police station.

There he was asked to remove a Facebook post, where he wrote that during quarantine, people are unable to work, and therefore, have trouble providing for their families. Therefore the authorities should help. When he refused to remove the status, police charged him with hooliganism (according to police protocol Mammadov was stopped on the street for swearing. When the police approached him, they asked him why he was outside without a protective mask and gloves. When Mammadov disobeyed their questions, he was arrested).

April 4, journalist, Tezekhan Mirelemli was questioned over a Facebook post according to local media reports.


Translation: “Friends, today, I was called with an official letter to the Baku City Main Police Department. They wanted to speak with me about a Facebook status I shared after an incident that occurred near Hazi Aslanov metro stop. I gave my explanation and was let go. I would like to say, there was no violence used against me. Some friends, have shared news that I was beaten. I am telling you it is not true. As for the Facebook status – I deleted it. I knew it would be misinterpreted. I wanted to delete the status as soon as I shared it. I did not delete it in the evening because there was some troll activity. I would like to say I had no intention when sharing that Facebook status. I shared it because I wanted to prevent cases of abuse from happening again. I then deleted it because I did not want it to be misunderstood.”

The journalist’s post was about a police officer, according to Azadliq Radio reports but no further details are given.

Mirelemli was convicted on June 19, on hooliganism charges and sentenced to wear an electronic bracelet. The conviction also calls for the journalist’s confinement to his home, between 11pm and 7am every day for the next 12 months. 

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March 25, police in Azerbaijan, closely monitor discussions on the popular social media platform, Facebook. Some users reportedly are invited for questioning.

The national parliament adopted changes to the law on Information, Informatisation, and Protection of Information, ten days ago, and already, several social media users have been questioned by the police over their posts.

Local authorities are relying on the new article “Violating sanitary hygiene, quarantine and pandemic regimes” when questioning social media users.

On March 21, AIW reported of Ilgar Atayev, who was called in for questioning and charged with article 388.1 of the code of administrative offenses – sharing of prohibited information on the Internet or internet – telecommunication networks. Authorities claim, Atayev, shared information on COVID without quoting official sources and that the information provided was false.

Since then, at least two more cases have been reported.

In another case, Anar Malikov, an opposition activist,  was sentenced to ten days of administrative detention for violating the pandemic regime on March 21. The court decision said Malikov violated the quarantine regime with his social media posts. No such legal liability is specified in Article 211 of the Code of Administrative Offenses.