Rasul Jafarov sentenced to 6,5 years in prison
Young, prominent and dedicated human rights defender Rasul Jafarov, was convicted to six and a half years in prison in a Baku, Azerbaijan court today. -It is hardly news anymore that human rights defenders are handed long prison sentences in Azerbaijan, where punishing the dissent on bogus charges has become commonplace for the government in past years, Secretary General Bjørn Engesland says.
Rasul is best known for the campaign “Sing for Democracy”, aimed at informing Europe on human rights abuses in Azerbaijan ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku in 2012. But he was important in many more human rights related issues, not the least, in compiling the lists of the nearly 100 political prisoners in the severely authoritarian Azerbaijan and in active advocacy in the Council of Europe to support political prisoners and human rights defenders in his home country. On 2 August 2014 he was arrested and accused of illegal entrepreneurship, evasion of payment of taxes, abuse of professional power, misappropriation of other’s property and fabrication of documents.
- Azerbaijan’s international partners should act decisively to insist on the immediate release of journalists and activists who are now behind bars for trying to exercise their right to free speech, Engesland continues. Over the year, authorities have locked up the country’s leading civil society activists. They remain jailed, even though authorities have failed to produce credible evidence that could support the charges against these detainees. What many of these “criminals” have in common is a history of being outspoken on the human rights abuses.
Azerbaijan’s government’s refusal to release people imprisoned on politically motivated charges and to end human rights violations has had no apparent negative effect on its relationship with the international institutions, which mainly have restricted the human rights issues to private diplomacy. But, there is no indication that private talks or mild rebuke have had any positive effects. The international community’s continued inaction would soon lead to the end of the Azerbaijan’s independent human rights community. Unless President Ilham Aliyev's government understands that there will be serious consequences, Baku will continue its human rights abuses.
We believe it is time to impose targeted sanctions against Azerbaijan’s main human rights perpetrators.
Another highly respected rights defender Intigam Aliyev, who was also arrested in August, is currently on trial on charges of tax evasion, abuse of power, illegal business activities, and embezzlement. He could face 10 years in jail. The cases of Leyla and Arif Yunus, Rauf Mirgadirov, Khadija Ismayilova and several others will be heard in courts in the coming months.