Dozens of opposition protesters arrested in Baku | Den norske Helsingforskomité

Dozens of opposition protesters arrested in Baku

Dozens of opposition protesters arrested in Baku

Around 1000 protesters defied warnings and participated in the unsanctioned 2 April anti-government rally on the Fountain Square in Central Baku, Azerbaijan. Riot police of the oil rich country were quick to disperse the rally with their usual batons and arrested several dozens, including at least ten journalists.

The rally had been organised by the umbrella opposition group ’Public Chamber’ with participation from opposition leaders Ali Karimli and Isa Gambar, who both were summoned to the police for warnings ahead of the demonstrations. Just prior to the protest rally, 10 opposition activists were arrested and sentenced to five to ten days of imprisonment. The arrests are sadly anticipated. Earlier in March, NHC condemned the wave of arrests of youth activists and bloggers in connection with other pro-democracy protests in the country, and called for their immediate release. Reports of restrictions on freedom of expression and pressure by the Azerbaijani authorities have escalated in recent weeks, as calls for pro-democracy protests – inspired by the events in the Middle East and North Africa – appear to have gained momentum in the country.

- The human rights situation in Azerbaijan develops from bad to worse, head of information Berit Lindeman says. - The government keeps defying even decisions from the European Court of human rights, Lindeman says in reference to the continued imprisonment of Eynullah Fattullayev. On 21 March, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe sent a letter to president Ilham Aliyev expressing his disappointment in the non-compliance with human rights standards in the country. Fattullayev himself wrote an open letter, published on 31 March on the web-site www.irfs.az explaining his current situation of solitary confinement in a prison cell:

Open letter from imprisoned editor Eynullah Fattulayev.

“I have been informing my readers about every step of my troubled way. My life and struggle are open for society. As a journalist, I am committed to transparency. I have been held in a single cell for about a month. The reason for this is to protect myself from potential provocations by the authorities.

The instinct of self-preservation requires this measure. When I was bring held in the Baku Investigative Prison, I had a confrontation with prison Chief Elkhan Sadigov and his hired criminal gang (19 October and 17 November, 2010). They wanted to provoke me, but they were unsuccessful. Later, a popular underworld leader warned me that the authorities might use criminals against me, and advised me to be cautious.

I faced great danger in this criminal place, but I managed to survive, thanks to my God and honest people. My lawyers Elchin Sadigov, Rashid Hajili and Anar Gasimov were all aware of the grave situation I was in a few months ago. Under those conditions, my only way to survive was by being transferred to Prison #9. The European Commission, the co-rapporteurs of European Council, Ombudsman and a number of local NGOs also requested my transfer.

Instead, I was transferred to the most dangerous prison. The authorities follow their usual policy. Everyone knows about the violence I encountered on my way to prison, and I was put in a very cold cell. At this time, several mass media outlets started claiming that I had requested a Presidential pardon. I have not committed any crime to need a pardon for.

I sent a private letter to President Aliyev on March 3rd. I hoped that he would intervene with my situation and release me, because no European court judgment, or decision of any tribunal or arbitrating body could give me my right to freedom if the leader remains against it. And why wasn’t the content of the letter unveiled? My lawyers informed me that such questions were being asked across social networks. My explanation: In my letter I referred to talks between Ilham Aliyev and certain European diplomats. I didn’t release the text because I was following a code of ethics. This letter focused on the topics I learnt about from these talks. The opposite side can release the letter if they deem it necessary. As for me, every time I meet with my aged parents in prison, I wanted to be free of this trouble: that’s why I requested to be freed (or at least to be deported). However, Aliyev ignored it completely, and continued to hold me in a cell. The pressures, threats and dangers continued.

As of 2011, I can say without any doubt that the ruling establishment has carried out an illegal vendetta against me. I knew this on March 2, 2005. However, I did not realize back then that the authorities were so afraid of free opinion. I will fight to the very end. For the sake of our freedom!”

Eynulla Fatullayev has been held in single cell on his own request. His 30 days of detention in single cell ends on March 31, 2011.

BACKGROUND

On the 29th of December, 2009, 0.223 grams of heroin was reportedly found on Fatullayev in Prison #12 and on the 6th of July, 2010, Fatullayev was found guilty under article 234.1 ( possession of narcotics) of the Criminal Code. His sentence of two years and six months in prison began on the same date. His appeal against the decision was rejected.

In 2007, Eynulla Fatullayev, editor-in-chief of “Realniy Azerbaydjan” and “Gundelik Azerbaycan” newspapers, was sentenced to 8.5 years in jail for threatening terrorism, amongst other charges. However, on April 22, 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled for his immediate release and financial compensation from the Azerbaijani government (27,800 EUR). The Azerbaijani Supreme Court Plenum has only partially fulfilled the decision.