Vefa Mammadova, Wife of Imprisoned Opposition Member Ilgar Mammadov, Speaks at Council of Europe Assembly

Vefa Mammadova, the wife of one of Azerbaijan’s leading opposition politicians, Ilgar Mammadov, spoke today at a Council of Europe assembly and asked those in attendance why Azerbaijan, after all these years, is still a member of the organization. You can read her and watch her address below.

Ilgar Mammadov was arrested in February of 2013 for alleged ‘hooliganism’ and ‘bribe giving’. The charges were later changed to the ‘organization of mass riots accompanied by riots and pogroms.’

He was sentenced in 2014 to 7 years imprisonment. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has released numerous statements concerning the lack of justice in Mammadov’s case and the verdict. The European Court of Human Rights found in 2014 that a number of Mammadov’s human rights had been violated during his arrest and trial.

Ilgar Mammadov is currently imprisoned in Sheki, Azerbaijan, which is 280 km from his family.

Below you can watch her address in Russian:

Dear friends, 

I’m not a politician. The purpose of my visit to Strasbourg is not to talk about politics. I’m married to a politician in Azerbaijan, and this politician has been in prison for 4 years and 3 months.

Everyone in the Council of Europe and the European Court – and the Secretary General, and the Committee of Ministers, and the Parliamentary Assembly, and Congress – has recognized him as a political prisoner. Therefore, the purpose of my visit is to find out why, with this unanimity in the heart of our European democracy, he is still behind bars. 

In many member states of the Council of Europe, the term limit for members of parliament is not more than four years. For four years, a deputy must demonstrate his positions and character, he will then be elected again or lose the elections.

However, for some reason, for four years, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has been unable to show its best quality.

My husband is a Republican, and he led the movement against consolidating a concentration of power in the hands of one family. For this, he was put in prison. Furthermore, our laws became even more monarchical. It turns out that the men who arrested Ilgar, have shown in these four years what they have in mind, and the Parliamentary Assembly has not even figured out how to employ its collective will on this issue. I would like to understand why?

Over the years, other people who came to our home were injured. Rasul Jafarov has served a year and a half in prison and Natig Jafarli served a month, while other Republican activists spent weeks under administrative arrest. Azer Gasimli is prohibited from leaving the country. Some of our other guests had to leave the country. None of these cases of harassment is connected with the criminal case against my husband. For every Republican, authorities have come up with a separate reason. 

Also, both of Ilgar’s lawyers were punished because of their speeches at his trial. Khalid Bagirov was expelled from the Bar Association, and Fouad Agayev was fined. They are brave people. In conditions when the authorities are so angry at my husband, they continue to defend him, both in public life and in the European Court. 

Still, Ilgar does not want to expose his defenders in the European Court to all new risks. Therefore, those in the Parliamentary Assembly who aim to wait for the decision of the European Court on our second complaint, are acting dishonestly. In the first court decision, it is clearly written that the authorities are persecuting Ilgar for political reasons. these motives have not faded since 2013 and have even intensified. 

Of course, without the support of the Council of Europe, it would be more difficult for us. Ilgar knows: the delegations of many countries actively defend the idea of his release in the Committee of Ministers and in PACE. We are very grateful to Secretary General Jagland for his great personal efforts to implement the decision of the European Court of Justice.

Ilgar and I became a family 16 years ago. As long as Azerbaijan has been a member of the Council of Europe. More than a quarter of this time I have had to visit him in prison. I do not ask myself why I married a politician, but I ask the Parliamentary Assembly, why was Azerbaijan accepted into the Council of Europe? Thank you for your attention. 

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