Freedom of Speech and Human Rights in Azerbaijan

In Azerbaijan, human rights defenders and NGOs have less and less space for activity. In recent years, amendments to laws have been adopted that impose restrictions on the work of human rights defenders and strict state control over it. The arrests of the most famous human rights defenders and the subsequent trials that ended in prison terms show that Azerbaijan is confidently moving towards authoritarianism, apparently taking over from Russia its neglect of civil society.

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Demands Mount For Hunger-Striking Azerbaijani Blogger’s Release Amid New Charges

An Azerbaijani media-rights group has added its name to the list of organizations urging the government to release a hunger-striking blogger who was targeted with a new charge just weeks before his expected release from prison.

Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Human Rights Watch (HRW), and other watchdog groups, and The Washington Post’s editorial board have also demanded that 26-year-old Mehman Huseynov be freed.

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Criminal case launched against exiled blogger Ordukhan Teymurkhan

A Baku district court issued an arrest warrant against Netherlands-based Azerbaijani video blogger and social media activist Ordukhan Teymurkhan, Radio Liberty reported last Friday relying on a source from the Prosecutor’s Office.

Teymurkhan is charged under three articles of the criminal code relating to calls for terrorism, mass riots and attacks against the state, the sentence for which is up to eight years in prison.

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Editor of Basta.info site is accused

Mustafa Hajibeyli, editor-in-chief of the bastainfo.com website, was summoned to the Baku prosecutor”s office as a witness in connection with a lawsuit. However, today he was transferred to the status of the accused. He is charged under the following Articles of the Criminal Code: 281.2 (appeals against the state), 309.2 (abuse of office) and 313 (official forgery).

“According to the accusation, I allegedly made anti-state appeals, deliberately misleading the public and spreading false information,” said Hajibeyli in an interview with Turan.

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Political émigré who returned home to visit critically ill father arrested on drug-related charges (updated)

Azad Hasanov, Musavat party member and political exile living in Lithuania, has been arrested during a short return to his home country and charged with drug trafficking.

According to his lawyer, Osman Kazimov, the Khatai District Court sentenced him to four months in detention on drug-related charges. Under Article 234.4.3 (illegal manufacturing, purchase, storage, transportation, transfer or selling of sale of drugs), Hasanov faces between five and twelve years in prison.

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OCCRP names Aliyev “Person of the Year”

Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, has won the first ever Organized Crime and Corruption Person of the Year bestowed by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). The award is given for the person who figured prominently in 2012 on stories on crime and corruption in its coverage area.  Aliyev was chosen because of new revelations this year about how his family had taken large shares in lucrative industries including the telecom, minerals and construction industries often through government related deals.

The award is chosen by the 60 reporters and 15 news organizations that make up the OCCRP consortium. Runners-up included Albanian drug lord Naser Kelmendi, President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Journalist Aytaj Ahmadova detained and physically pressured

What else you can expect from such government?

On 3 October, Azerbaijani journalist Aytaj Ahmadova was detained while filming a protest in Zabrat, a settlement close to Baku.

A group of citizens had been protesting against their desolate living conditions, demanding that the government renovated their unsafe homes which are in danger of collapsing.

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To punish or pardon?

The number of political prisoners in Azerbaijan remains approximately the same from year to year. The president regularly signs pardon decrees but the “vacancies” on bunk beds in prisons are quickly occupied by newly-arrived opponents of the political elite of Azerbaijan.

The following is a Meydan TV report about how the possibility of pardon is used to manipulate political prisoners and how the prisoners themselves have become bargaining chips in the Azerbaijani government’s foreign policy.

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Azerbaijan a year after the LGBT raids: has anything changed in Europe’s most homophobic country?

Azerbaijani society has never been tolerant toward sexual minorities, but no one expected the cruel and large-scale violence that occurred last year. At least a hundred people were humiliated, beaten and raped. People who were suspected of being gay were blackmailed and warned not to walk in the central streets of Baku. Meydan TV investigated the possible reasons for the police violence immediately after it happened last year and we now return to this topic to find out what has changed in Azerbaijan over the past year.

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Azerbaijan’s blocking of websites is a sign of further restrictions online

It has been a busy month for the Cyber Security Service at Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Transport, Communication and High Technologies.

Since early August, the service has targeted a number of independent news websites – first requesting them to remove specific content, and later blocking access to these websites altogether. The blocking came after the websites featured articles on the corrupt practices of certain government officials, other stories merely reported on local grievances. Editors and journalists have been summoned to the prosecutor office for questioning over the published articles, though the editors are reluctant to comply. In their public statements, editors say there was no slander nor misinformation in any of the articles published.

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