PACE to Consider Issue of Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan

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Baku / 15.01.20 / Turan: The agenda of the PACE winter session includes the question “Case on communications in connection with political prisoners in Azerbaijan.” The draft resolution, drawn up on the basis of the speaker on political prisoners in Azerbaijan, Icelandic MP Thorhildur Sunna Evarsdottir, will be discussed on January 27.

The report expressed serious concern about the problem of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, which is “systemic in nature.”

Even when Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe in 2001, PACE called on Baku to “release or review the cases of political prisoners”. However, this problem still remains, despite several PACE resolutions on this issue.

In recent years, the European Court of Human Rights has issued a large number of decisions, finding a violation of the European Convention due to arbitrary arrests of opposition politicians, civil society activists, human rights defenders and journalists.

The draft resolution states that 85 people were included in the report of the previous PACE rapporteur, Christoph Strasser. At least nine of these people won their cases in court, and 4 more remain pending before the ECHR.

“In any case, there is no doubt that the phenomenon of political prisoners in Azerbaijan is real,” said speaker Evarsdottir.

At the same time, she calls the lists of political prisoners trustworthy presented by the “Working Group on Compiling a Single List of Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan” and “Union for the Freedom of Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan”.

The report specifically refers to the cases of the journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, leaders of the Muslim Unity Movement Taleh Bagirzadeh and Abbas Huseynov, defendants in the Cases of Said Dadashbeyli and others.

The speaker also paid attention to the Ganja events of 2018. “Many of those with whom I met in Azerbaijan, including diplomats, have expressed serious concern about this,” the speaker writes.

She recalls that a few days after the photo of the attacker on the head of Ganja with signs of torture was distributed, a demonstration took place in Ganja, during which two police officers were killed.

In this case, 77 people were arrested. “Some of them say that they did not even participate in the demonstration. Authorities claimed that they were all violent Islamic extremists. The detainees gave detailed descriptions of how they were tortured while in custody and were denied access to lawyers or the opportunity to contact their family.

The lawsuits took place in Baku, and not in Ganja, and many journalists did not get access to the processes. There were serious problems with the veracity of the charges, which the court could not properly examine.

“The fact that the detainees were arrested in a demonstration against the government, and the authorities’ statements that they are religious extremists, as well as serious procedural flaws, suggest that most of those arrested, or maybe all of them, are political prisoners,” notes the presenter.

The Assembly calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to review the cases of those whose names are on the lists of civil society and release all those imprisoned for political reasons.

The resolution proposes “to solve the problem of political prisoners once and for all,” the document says.

According to the lists of local human rights defenders, the number of political prisoners is from 120 to 136.

 

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