political activist arrested over a question asked during live online discussion

Magsud Aliyev, a political activist, was arrested on August 16 and sentenced to 30 days in administrative detention on charges of disobeying police according to local media reports. Speaking to Turan News Agency, Aliyev’s father, Faig Aliyev, said the family was not aware of their son’s arrest until they heard it from his friends, days later. 

Aliyev, reportedly asked a question during a live debate on August 12 with the leader of an opposition political party Popular Front, Ali Karimli about Ilham Aliyev and his general intentions. “If you have noticed, Aliyev most recently has been using terms like ‘foreign powers’ similar to the narrative often used by President Erdogan. He has also changed his style, wearing more tight clothes like President Zelensky. What do you think Aliyev is trying to do?” asked Aliyev during the Q&A session. 

A human rights organization, “Line of Defense” condemned the arrest of the activist. The managing director of the organization, Rufat Safarov said there is no doubt Aliyev was arrested because of the question he asked during the debate. “We suspect he was humiliated, beaten, and subjected to ill-treatment during detention. We will have more details soon once the lawyer, visits Aliyev,” Safarov told Meydan TV. 

Aliyev is known to share critical of the government posts on social media platforms according to Meydan TV reporting. 

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Internal Affairs dismissed the claims that the activist was arrested for the question. 

police demands arrest of a political activist [Updated September 5]

[Update] On September 5, a local court sentenced Rahimova to 460hours of community service. Rahimova’s lawyer said they will be appealing the decision. 

Gulnara Rahimova is a member of the opposition Popular Front party. On August 11, Rahimova shared a Facebook post in which she described how she was unlawfully detained while on her way to a protest on July 19. Together with Rahimova was another activist, Aziz Mamiyev who was beaten by the police during detention. The two were among several other activists detained by the police that day. “Today I have obtained the picture of one of the law enforcement officers involved in the beating [of Mamiyev]. I am sharing it so that everybody sees him,” wrote Rahimova. The officer in question has filed a complaint against Rahimova, on charges of slander and insult based on that Facebook post. 

Rahimova said in her defense that the post she shared on Facebook was not insulting or slanderous and that the charges and the accusation brought by the police officer are to silence her activism. According to Turan News Agency, Rahimova is an outspoken critic of the state and has faced persecution before.

A non-governmental organization “Line of Defense” said in an interview with Turan News Agency there was nothing slanderous in the Facebook post the political activist shared. “And she holds no responsibility over comments, that were made in response to her Facebook post,” told Turan News Agency, member of the organization, Zafara Akhmedova.

On August 24, during the preliminary hearing, a local court accepted the police officer’s complaint as a private criminal charge against Gulnara Rahimova. Moreover, her charges were aggravated. Thus, article 147 (slander) was reclassified to 147.2 (slander of a serious crime), which could land Rahimova up to a 3-year prison sentence.

 

activist exposing fake accounts on social media arrested, facing up to 12 years behind bars [with updates]

Razi Alishov was detained on May 28 in the city of Ganja. Two days later, the political activist and member of the opposition Popular Front party, was charged with Article 234.2 of the Criminal Code [Illegal purchase or storage with a view of selling, manufacturing, processing, transportation, transfer or selling of narcotics or psychotropic substances] and sentenced to two months in pretrial detention. 

The opposition Popular Front party considers the detention and the grounds for Alishov’s arrest, political. According to the party, Alishov often exposed fake social media accounts deployed by the state, targeting the party, reported Turan News Agency on May 30. The activist also often identified stolen or hijacked social media accounts of opposition activists.  

While the Ministry of the Interior has confirmed the arrest of the political activist, it has denied that the motives behind the arrest are political. Noting the party member’s arrest, the leader of the Popular Front, Ali Karimli said the arrest was part of the rotating door policy referring to a number of recently released political prisoners and the need to “fill out the emptied spots in prisons.” 

On May 27, President Ilham Aliyev signed a presidential pardon decree. Among 168 prisoners released were also several political prisoners, reported Meydan TV.

On June 2, the appeal court in the city of Ganja reviewed Alishov’s complaint appeal where the activist was informed that the original charge of drug possession was aggravated to Articles 234.4.1 and 234.4.3 of the Criminal Code [Manufacturing, purchase, storage, transfer, transportation or selling the drug by a group of persons or organized group with a view of illegal manufacturing and processing of narcotics or psychotropic substances].

Relevant articles of the penal code

Article 234. Illegal manufacturing, purchase, storage, transportation, transfer, or selling of narcotics, psychotropic substances;

234.1. Illegal purchase or storage without a purpose of selling of narcotics or psychotropic substances in a quantity (amount) exceeding necessary for personal consumption – is punished by imprisonment for a term up to three years.

234.2. Illegal purchase or storage with a view of selling, manufacturing, processing, transportation, transfer, or selling of narcotics or psychotropic substances – is punished by imprisonment for a term from three up to seven years with confiscation of property or without it.

234.3. Manufacturing, purchase, storage, transfer, transportation, or selling drugs with a view to illegal manufacturing and processing of narcotics or psychotropic substances – is punished by imprisonment for a term up to three years with confiscation of property or without it.

234.4. The acts provided by articles 234.2 and 234.3 of the present Code, committed:

234.4.1. on preliminary arrangement by group of persons or organized group;

234.4.2. repeatedly;

234.4.3. in large amount – is punished by imprisonment for the term from five up to twelve years with confiscation of property.

 

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.

member of opposition party sentenced to 30 days [Update April 5, 2022]

[Update] On March 31, Shahin Haciyev was sentenced to six years on bogus drug possession charges. Haciyev was arrested in November of last year. Speaking in court, Haciyev’s lawyer said the charges were unsubstantiated and that he will be appealing the court’s decision, according to reporting by Meydan TV. The opposition Popular Front Party condemned the sentence, calling the charges false and stressing that the arrest was connected to Haciyev’s criticism of the authorities on social media. In February, two other members of the Popular Front Party, Gulnara Rahimova and Matanat Mahmarzayeva (Turan) were questioned by the police over their social media posts. 

On March 19, a member of the opposition Popular Front party, Shahin Haciyev was sentenced to 30 days administrative detention. According to Azadliq Radio, Azerbaijan Service for Radio Liberty, Haciyev was taken from his home in the city of Ganja on March 17. Two days later, a court sentenced Haciyev to 30 days administrative detention. According to the radio service, his charges are unknown. 

The party spokesperson in an interview with Azadliq Radio said Haciyev’s arrest is directly linked to his political activism and criticism of authorities online. “He was a staunch critic of the regime. This is why he was arrested in January 2021 and sentenced to 25 days in administrative detention for disobeying authority – Article 535.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses.”

The Ministry of the Interior has not yet responded. 

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.