NHC condemns verdict against Anar Mammadli
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee condemns the verdict against the renowned independent election observer Anar Mammadli, who in a Baku court yesterday was sentenced to five and-a-half years in prison for tax evasion, illegal business activities, and using their office to falsify election results.
– This judgment is clearly political, and is a reaction to the critical statements made by Mammadli as Chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS) in Baku on the Presidential elections in Azerbaijan in October 2013, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. Mammadli's organization monitored elections in Azerbaijan last autumn and exposed widespread irregularities and fraud during balloting and vote counting.
The sentence comes two weeks after Azerbaijan took over the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe, which is rotating among Council of Europe member states every sixth month. The priorities of the Azerbaijani Chairmanship, according to the Council of Europe’s webpage, are to strengthen the Council’s work on human rights, rule of law and democracy. – Only twelve days into the country’s chairmanship, Azerbaijan has failed completely in following these pillars, said Engesland.
In addition to being the Chairman of EMDS, Anar Mammadli is board member of the network European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), and a longtime partner of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
Together with Mammadli, EMDS executive director, Basir Suleymanli, received a three and-a-half years prison term, and the director of the Union for International Cooperation of Volunteers, Elnur Mammadov, which was charged in the same trial, received a suspended two-year sentence.
The Norwegian government should bring up Anar Mammadli’s case at the highest possible level, said Engesland. – We would also like to challenge the Norwegian PACE delegation to bring up Anar Mammadli’s case in the next meeting of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly which will take place 23 June.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is a member of the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), a network of thirteen European civil society organizations conducting or supporting citizens’ election observation throughout Europe. NHC's Berit Lindeman is also a board member of the platform together with Anar Mammadli and EMDS.
In Kiev, where EPDE members from Norway, Russia and Germany had finalised a joint observation mission of the Ukraine elections, a small picket in support of Mammadli took place outside the Azerbaijani embassy Tuesday.