a court in Azerbaijan jails the host of a YouTube show [Updated January, 2023]

[Update] According to local media reports, Gafarov suffered a clinical death on December 22, 2022, while receiving treatment in a medical facility of the prison service. However, instead of keeping him at the medical facility, the prison management decided to transfer Gafarov back to prison. 

Abid Gafarov, was sentenced to one year in prison on charges of insult and slander by a court in Baku. Speaking to the media after the verdict, Gafarov’s lawyer, Elchind Sadigov, said the charges leveled against his client were bogus. Gafarov, hosted a YouTube channel Kim.TV [Who is?]. He is also known for his coverage of the “Terter case” – a “notorious case in which dozens of military officers accused of spying for Armenia were tortured.”

Gafarov, is the second person to be targeted in the last two months who have been previously involved in coverage of the Terter Case. On June 10, lawyer and activist Ilham Aslanoglu was sentenced to six months in prison on insult charges 

According to local media reports, Gafarov was arrested based on complaints by a group of war veterans who felt insulted after Gafarov said during one of his shows, that the veterans were acting “obediently” instead of standing up for their rights. 

The sentence was handed despite the group of veterans later withdrawing their complaint against Gafarov reported the news site Jam-News, “Veterans of the war, officially recognized as plaintiffs, wrote a corresponding statement about the withdrawal of the claim. Despite this, Judge Tarlan Akperov, who was in charge of this case, decided to refer the case to the Yasamal District Court.”

On July 16, a group of rights defenders issued a statement condemning Gafarov’s arrest. 

Political activist sentenced to ten years in jail

Member of a political opposition party Agil Humbatov was sentenced to ten years in jail after criticizing the president on Facebook. In a court ruling on November 15, Humbatov was charged with Article 126.2.4 of the Criminal Code – intentionally causing harm with an intent to commit hooliganism. The prosecutor alleged Humbatov, stabbed a man. According to Turan News Agency, the prosecutor said Humbatov stabbed Yaman Mammadov. 

Humbatov was detained on August 11 this year.

In his defense, the political activist, who is a member of Popular Front, said charges against him were bogus. The real reason behind his sentence was his social media posts and videos in which the activist was critical of the government, namely President Ilham Aliyev. 

In his most recent video, Humbatov complained of lack of employment opportunities and that with three children and lack of local government support, he had no other choice but to collect cardboard from waste. 

Previously, Humbatov was confined to treatment at a psychiatric clinic over his criticisms against the authorities online. He was also detained in March 2019 and sentenced to 30 days in administrative detention.

Blogger arrested in Azerbaijan

Sameddin Mammadov was reported missing on October 29. The witnesses said they saw a group of men, took Mammadov from his in Azerbaijan’s Jalilabad district, driving him in an unidentified direction. His son, Nahid Mammadov said the family learned their father was taken by the police days later. 

Mammadov, is a blogger covering developments from his region via his Facebook account. His son, Nahid Mammadov who spoke with Azadliq Radio, Azerbaijan Service for Radio Liberty said the allegations leveled against his father were illegal and groundless. “My father talked about problems from our district on social media. He was making videos. He was doing it with one purpose – the country’s leadership see what was happening in Jalilabad. My father was intimidated, and warned numerous times.” 

According to the son, his father is currently on a hunger strike. The family in the meantime asked to meet the president but was refused. 

Mammadov is accused of inflicting intentional body harm and hooliganism. Azadliq Radio spoke with the plaintiff, also a resident of the same district, Elshad Jafarov.  Jafarov claims Mammadov, his son, and nephew beat him up on September 27. “I don’t know why Mammadov was arrested. I did not know he was. I cannot say whether he was threatened because of his political activism. But I have testified to the police. I have spent 21 days at a hospital recovering from the beating. There is a forensics report,” Jafarov told Azadliq Radio. 

According to a post on Mammadov’s Facebook, the court dismissed his appeal and that he remains behind bars.  

In Azerbaijan, one man sentenced to ten months over a series of tweets

The 35-year-old resident of Nakhchivan was arrested in April, 2021. He was charged with Article 148 of the Ciminal Code (slander or insult using fake accounts on internet information services). In June, the Nakhchivan City Court sentenced the user to ten months.  According to Azerbaijan Service for Radio Liberty reporting, the same court, reviewed the motion filed against the court’s June decison on October 24. In its ruling, the court decided to replace the sentence with a fine. Taking into account, the time spent behind bars since April, the court then also ruled to remove the fine. 

The man, whose name is only identified by his initials, K.M., was jailed over a series of tweets from 2020, targeting the head of the Supreme Assembly of the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan, Vasif Talibov. 

AIW was unable to verify the tweets. Only two tweets with the same text appeared in search results. Both belonged to two different users. 

This is the first case where a user of social media platform, was arrested and then jailed explicitly over a text posted online and specifically on Twitter. Previously reported cases of harassment and initimidation of online activists, including detentions and/or arrests were justified with other offenses listed under the Criminal Code. Most common charges are hooliganism, disobeying authority, and drug posession. 

6 journalists and bloggers behind bars in Azerbaijan

On June 8, Justice for Journalists issued a statement in support of jailed media workers worldwide. 

The Justice for Journalists Foundation and its Media Risk Map partners monitoring attacks on media workers in the post-Soviet space call on international organisations and governments of all countries to do their utmost to secure the early release of all incarcerated media workers and to end the barbaric violations of their rights. According to the JFJ’s experts, at least 84 media workers from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Crimea, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are awaiting trial in detention or under house arrests, or have already been sentenced to long-term imprisonment and are held in prisons and prison camps. 

According to JfJ the following journalists and bloggers remain behind bars in Azerbaijan: