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 [updated May 27, 2022]

[Update May 27, 2022] Afgan Sadigov was released from jail on May 27, following a presidential decree that called for the release of over 200 prisoners from jail. 

[Update] According to Azerbaijan Service for Radio Free Europe, Afgan Sadigov’s sentence was reduced in a Supreme Court ruling on July 2. The original sentence of 6 years was reduced to 4, reported the service. 

On March 30, Sadigov’s wife, Sevinc Sadigova reported she was being blackmailed by the State Security Services threatening her with releasing personal videos of Sadigova. Afgan Sadigov has been on a hunger strike for 147 days now. On the 80th day, he lost consciousness and fell into a coma. After that, he was put on artificial feeding but has denied that in the past week as well said Sadigova. Following her statement about threats, the Prosecutor General office issued a warning to Sadigova denying allegations made by the journalist’s wife. In a statement obtained by Meydan TV, the Prosecutor General office said, that they would take legal action against Sadigova and those who spared such false and biased information on social networks and in the media, calling to refrain from such illegal actions.

According to existing national legislation, sharing, spreading, or selling video and photographs of people’s personal lives is punishable by a fine [1000-2000AZN], public work [240-480 hours], or correctional work [up to 1 year]. If this information is obtained by officials or via drones it is punishable by deprivation from official work for up to three years, up to two years of imprisonment, or up to two years of restricted freedom.   

February 7, on his 95th day of hunger strike, journalist Afgan Sadigov is experiencing memory loss said Sadigov’s wife, Sevinc Sadigova in an interview with Turan News Agency. Sadigova also said, her husband lost consciences on the 80th day of the hunger strike, and as a result fell into a coma. Although he regained his consciences his condition remains critical. Sadigova also said, that her husband has been receiving food injections through a tube.

January 28, the court of appeal reduced the sentence of Afgan Sadigov whose health condition remains critical Turan News Agency reports. The Sumgayit Court of Appeal in a hearing where Sadigov was absent ruled to reduce the seven-year sentence to 6. Speaking to Turan News Agency Sadigov’s lawyer Elchin Sadigov [not related] said the defendant intends to file a cassation appeal with the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Meanwhile, the journalist’s wife, Sevinc Sadigova said the decision is a travesty of justice sentencing her husband to death

On January 10, the family members of Sadigov reported his health was in critical condition and that the journalist was at the Penitentiary Service medical ward. Attempts to receive a comment from the Penitentiary Service were futile according to Azadliq Radio. 

On November 3, Afgan Sadigov was sentenced to seven years. In protest to the sentence, Sadigov, went on a hunger strike as of November 4. Meanwhile, Sakit Muradov, who was tried together with Sadigov was absent during the court hearing. According to Azadliq Radio reporting, Muradov was not detained during the investigation and was placed under police surveillance instead. Unlike Sadigov, Muradov received a suspended sentence.

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. 

***

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.