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.


Freelance journalist appeal rejected

Jamil Mammadli is a regional freelance reporter often covering stories and developments from Northern Azerbaijan. In March 2021, Mammadli was sentenced to 1 year and 6 months of correctional labor. The charges were leveled against the journalist based on a complaint from the head of the regional district executive authority, Ziyaddin Aliyev. Aliyev claimed, that the stories Mammadli wrote about the official, were of defamatory and insulting nature. 

On May 17, during the appellate hearing, the journalist’s lawyers asked to acquit Mammadli, arguing the charges were illegal, while the special prosecutor, demanded that the journalist be handed a harsher sentence and was imprisoned.  The court rejected both of the appeals according to reporting by Meydan TV. 

Mammadli’s lawyer, Nemat Karimli said he disagreed with the ruling. “It is inadmissible to criminalize a journalist for his articles and content. The journalist was accused of slander and insult, even though he committed no such crimes,” said Karimli. 

Karimli also said that the case is centered around a video exposing the executive authority head hiring some 200 workers, without informing them and appropriating their salaries. According to the lawyer, the court failed to question the workers during the trial. 

While the charges against Mammadli remain, his lawyer, Karimli said they will be appealing to the Constitutional Court. 

Last year in March, when Mammadli was accused for the first time, the journalist said, he has indeed published video investigations about the official on his YouTube channel and Facebook and that the prosecutor’s office should instead investigate the evidence exposed in the videos.  

Mammadli previously was a regional reporter for Radio Liberty.

editor facing slander and insult charges

In Azerbaijan, editor of an online news website sozcu.az, Elshan Alisoy is facing slander and insult charges and a hefty fine. The charges leveled against the editor are related to the claims, raised by the Vice President of SOCAR [Azerbaijan State Oil Company] Mikayil Ismayilov. 

The vice president’s demands include a 100,000 AZN compensation [58.8 thousandUSD] for moral damage, charges of slander [Article 147], and insult [Article 148] of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan and closed-door hearing, over an article, Alisoy shared on Facebook. 

On June 22, a preparatory meeting was held in the Agsu District Court according to reporting by Turan News Agency. The agency reports that the hearing on the merits is scheduled for June 25. 

The editor’s lawyer, Nemat Karimli, says the acceptance of the claim into proceedings is unlawful. “According to Article 60 of the Law on Media, a person who reprints [reshares] an article published in another media is not responsible for the content.”

Titled, “The dark empire of Mikayil Ismayilov” the original article, that the blogger shared on his Facebook, was originally published by an online platform azadsoz.com [free word] on May 18, alleging that Mikayil Ismayilov oversees the management of the entire financial process in SOCAR’s covert operations.

Reposting the article, Elshan Alisoy, wrote the following comment, “Dear God, why they need all this wealth… Mikail Ismayilov is one of the 12 vice presidents of SOCAR. I call this, gluttony and barbarity.”  

The hearing in the case is scheduled for June 25.