blogger facing pressure over a video shared on Facebook

Azerbaijani blogger Elmar Aziz was called into questioning on December 1 over what the blogger said was a video he shared about the traffic police. According to Turan News Agency, in the video shared by Aziz, traffic police are seen taking bribes from drivers. Aziz shared the video on Facebook.

In an interview with Meydan TV, Aziz said he posted the video of traffic police bribing drivers on Facebook and tagged the head Elshad Hadjiyev – the head of press relations at the Ministry of the Interior. 

The blogger was forced to remove the video after the questioning at the police station. Aziz told Meydan TV that police threatened to keep him less he removed the video. 

After Aziz told the local media about the pressure from the police, the blogger was called back into the questioning together with his parents. 

Speaking to Turan News Agency, the head of press relations at the Ministry of the Interior, Elshad Hadjiyev refuted the blogger’s claim that he was questioned together with his parents by the local police after informing the media that he was forced to remove the video from Facebook. 

Activist beaten, Facebook posts removed

Political activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev was unlawfully detained yet again according to reports by Azerbaijani media. During the interrogation, which lasted six hours, Hajiyev’s Facebook posts in which he criticized the Ministry of the Internal Affairs were removed. 

In his own statement, Hajiyev said, he was threatened that less he removed the posts, and stops writing about the Ministry of Internal Affairs, he will face further measures. But activists said, his recent posts specifically targeted the ministry for not letting Hajiyev visit Shusha – a city in Karabakh that was captured following the 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

Hajiyev said he had no intentions to complain given there is nowhere to complain and that instead, he has submitted an official request to give up his Azerbaijani citizenship. “I am concerned about my life and no longer want to be a citizen of Azerbaijan. Let the head of state decide, whether the law enforcement can treat people this way,” the political activist told Turan News Agency in an interview.

The unlawful detention and interrogation are the latest, in attacks against the political activist. In April of this year, Hajiyev was kidnapped, taken to an undisclosed location, and was forced to remove several Facebook posts under duress that criticized the Ministry of the Interior, including the minister himself, for failing to investigate his case and being the perpetrators of threats and attacks against him. 

political activist kidnapped, facebook post deleted under duress [update April 29]

Bakthiyar Hajiyev is a political activist from Azerbaijan. In February 2020, AIW published this story about threats and intimidation Hajiyev was facing. Despite numerous requests made to the relevant government institutions to investigate, Hajiyev’s complaints remained unanswered. Instead, attacks continued. In September 2021, Hajiyev was reportedly threatened by Baku Police Chief Alekper Ismayilov over a Facebook post, in which the activist criticized the Ministry, specifically the Minister of the Interior, Vilayat Eyvazov for delaying a response to his complaints. 

On April 21, 2022, two years after, Hajiyev’s initial reports of cyberharassment, physical threats, and intimidation, the activist was kidnapped, taken to an undisclosed location, and was forced to remove several Facebook posts under duress that criticized the Ministry of the Interior, including the minister himself, for failing to investigate his case and being the perpetrators of threats and attacks against him. 

In a lengthy Facebook post, the activist described in detail what happened to him that day: 

I was attacked by an unknown man on April 21, around 11 pm on my way home. That moment, 4 men, their faces hidden under masks, forced me into their car. They placed a black sack over my head, taping over my eyes and mouth over the sack, tied my hands, and inserted earplugs over the sack so I don’t hear anything. After driving for a while, the men switched cars [Hajiyev suspected that the men changed too]. When they finally removed the sack, I was in what looked like a bathroom of a flat. They proceeded to humiliate me by using foul language. They demanded that I tell them who ordered me to write Facebook posts that were critical of the Minister of the Interior. When I told them I received orders from no one, they stripped me naked and proceeded to urinate on me. They demanded I delete the Facebook posts about Vilayet Eyvazov [the Minister of the Interior] and Fuad Muradov [Chairman of the State Committee on Work with Diaspora]. I deleted them all […] They filmed the whole time. In the meantime, they continued to threaten me. They told me if I continued to criticize the minister, they would rape me, and murder me. After that, they tied my eyes again and got rid of me in an undisclosed location where I was handed over to another group of four men who drove for a while and dropped me off somewhere hands still tied, and eyes covered. By the time I was able to untie myself, they were nowhere to be seen. There was nothing in the location where they disposed of me […] What happened to me, is a state-level crime, mafia-like measures. I immediately informed several government institutions and officials. I was assured that the head of state is aware of the matter. I was also told that the Minister of the Interior himself was going to meet me. A few days later, I was taken to the Ministry of the Interior where I met with the Minister’s Deputy, Ismet Aliyev. But 10-15 minutes into our conversation, it became clear that there was no need to continue the meeting because they did not tell me anything new. “We did not beat you, we used physical force,” “American police is worse. We are treating you humanely like a citizen,” “police beats people who want to hurt themselves everywhere across the world,” etc.

Hajiyev reiterated in his post that everything that has happened to him in the last two years, including most recently, the beating at the Baku City Police Department is all, the doing of the Ministry of the Interior. And until they prove him wrong, and the perpetrators are punished, the responsibility will be on Minister Eyvazov. “For anything that happens to me from now on, it is on the minister and the person who appointed him,” wrote Hajiyev. 

On April 24, Hajiyev attempted to review the CCTV footage from the street where he was kidnapped. In all the footage he reviewed, it appears parts of the recording – specifically the moment of his kidnapping – have been removed without the knowledge of the owners of security cameras. Describing this, Hajiyev wrote that the missing footage indicates “the crime was not committed by any criminal group, but by an organized, professional government agency.”

Earlier this month, Meta released its pilot quarterly Adversarial Threat Report. Among the countries mentioned in the report, is Azerbaijan where the platform said it has identified “a hybrid network operated by the Ministry of the Internal Affairs.” According to the document, this network relied on, what Meta refers to as, “Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior [CIB]” in combination with cyber espionage, “compromising accounts and websites to post” on behalf of the Ministry. The ministry’s press office was quick to dismiss the findings, saying the findings were fictitious.

*On April 28, Hajiyev was informed that the rotating security camera operated by the Ministry of the Interior as part of its “Safe City” system, was not rotating. 

opposition party boss seeks justice at the European Court of Human Rights

Ali Karimli, the head of the opposition Popular Front Party, and his spouse Samara Seyidova said they are preparing for the European Court of Human Rights, having received no response from domestic courts concerning their home internet connections being cut off since April of last year.  

AIW was documenting Karimli’s case since April 13 when the opposition boss encountered connection issues before a live interview with journalist Sevinc Osmangizi [for the detailed timeline please visit here]. 

Since then, despite numerous attempts, the leader of the Popular Front failed to resolve the problem through domestic courts. Most recently, the ruling of the Baku Appeal Court confirmed previous court decisions, thus ruling against the party head. The court of appeal is the final legal entity to accept and deal with similar complaints. “In such cases, the appeal to the Supreme Court is not expected. This is why we intend to take our complaint to the European Court,” said one of the lawyers defending Karimli in an interview with Azadliq Radio. 

The defendants are the Ministry of Transportation, Communication and High Technologies, Azercell mobile operator, AzQTEL internet provider, the Ministry of the Interior, State Security Service, and the Special State Protection Service. According to Karimli his rights were violated under Articles 6 (right to a fair trial), 8 (right to respect of family and private life), 10 (freedom of expression), 14 (prohibition of discrimination), and 18 (Limitation on use of restrictions on rights) of the European Convention on Human Rights

Karimli’s access to the internet was restored twice since April. Once on January 12 and in May but only briefly, for few hours. Karimli is certain the decision to cut him and his familly off internet is political. Government supporters think otherwise. Siyavush Novruzov, a parliament member, blamed Karimli for not paying his bills on time and laying the responsibility on the government. In the meantime, Azercell, the mobile operator [with ties to the government], said in a statement it does not discreminate among its customers based on their political views. 

But while government representatives and affiliated companies claim otherwise, Karimli and his family members had their rights violated. According to a fact checking platform FaktYoxla Karimli’s case, goes against severeal articles and guarantees specieifed by the national constitution and can be described as an unlawful interference. Specifically, it is against the right to equality and freedom of expression, right to live in safety and privacy. In addition, actions against Karimly contradict the provisions of the Law on Telecommunications, Access to Information and Personal Information and are criminalized by criminal law.

AIW will continue documenting developments in the case of Ali Karimli and the family.