Azerbaijan activist released after almost 10 months’ arbitrary detention

Anar Mammadli (right) was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison, while his deputy, Bashir Suleymanli (left), received a 3 1/2-year prison term. - Photograph: Courtesy Image/

Although Azeri election monitoring activist Bashir Suleymanli was released, others remain in jail, reports the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT).

On 18 March 2015, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev signed an annual presidential pardon releasing 101 prisoners, including Bashir Suleymanli, co-founder of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDSC).

Whilst welcoming Suleymanli’s release, on 19 March morning, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) remains deeply concerned by the ongoing arbitrary detention of other prominent human rights defenders in Azerbaijan.

Charged with “embezzlement”, “illegal business”, “tax evasion”, “abuse of authority” and “forgery”, Suleymanli, was sentenced on 26 May 2014 to three and a half years in prison, following an unfair trial. On the same day, Anar Mammadli, chairman of the EMDSC, was sentenced to 5.5 years, and remains currently detained.

Bashir Suleymanli co-founded the EMDSC along with Anar Mammadli, and has committed himself to the right to free and fair elections and to the promotion of democracy. The EMDSC – which Azeri authorities have always refused to register – has been leading electoral monitoring activities in Azerbaijan since 2008. The EMDSC had notably denounced massive irregularities during the October 2013 presidential election.

“The release of Mr Bashir Suleymanli is a relief for the human rights community, but we must remain vigilant as many other human rights defenders remain behind bars in Azerbaijan,” declared FIDH president Karim Lahidji.

The Observatory recalls that since April 2014, a severe crackdown has hit key representatives of civil society, NGOs, human rights defenders and journalists and their lawyers. Prominent and recognised human rights defenders and journalists were arrested, such as Leyla Yunus, Arif Yunusov, Intigam Aliyev, Rasul Jafarov and Rauf Mirqadirov, joined later by Khadija Ismayilova.

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Alongside, the conditions of work of NGOs have significantly deteriorated, and it is to be feared that the run-up to the first ‘European Games’, to be held in the Azeri capital in June, will restrict even further the ability of independent journalists and activists to report freely on human rights and democracy issues.

“It is time for the authorities in Azerbaijan to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders currently in prison because of their human rights work,” concluded OMCT secretary general Gerald Staberock.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders.

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28 Apr 2015 4.34am

Instead of this article you’ll better pay attention to racism cases in Europe and as well migration disasters. When it works for you, you call the Europe the motherhood of democracy which is in blood of innocent migrants.

28 Apr 2015 4.34am

if you really worry about Human Rights in Azerbaijan you could help one million IDPs and refugees of Azerbaijan to return to their homes in Karabakh and Armenia. But you do not prefer to light these matters. And I wonder what is hidden behind your biased article.

27 Apr 2015 11.12pm

The year of democracy in Azerbaijan is too young that’s why it is inevitable to face some problems. But the country as a whole does a lot to solve the remaining difficulties

27 Apr 2015 9.29pm

This article is just one of those campaining articles against Azerbaijan right before the Baku2015 European Games. It’s so visible.

27 Apr 2015 7.28pm

In Azerbaijan nobody is arrested for human rights work, if somebody misusing his role and doing illegal activity, I am sure all states including Azerbaijan will make a serious measures. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev every year is signing a pardon decree and release hundreds of prisoners. You can’t find the second state which is so liberal to prisoners disregarding their political positions. If Azerbaijan NGOs are functioning absolutely free without any barriers. Government is spending millions of USD from state budget to NGOs. If government would not be interested on NGOs, it did not fund it.

Ismayil Hajiyev
Ismayil Hajiyev
27 Apr 2015 7.15pm

These people are imprisoned without any political reason. There are obvious evidences .. I wonder if in any country someone detained for tax evasion or another charge, is his\her arrest considered politically motivated too? this is the smearing campaign against Azerbaijan ahead of European Games.

28 Apr 2015 12.16am

Interesting that ‘Ismayil’, ‘Nihad’ and ‘Narmina’ are all coming from the same IP address. Aren’t you the same person?

27 Apr 2015 6.45pm

There is not political prisoners in Azerbaijan !!! This is nothing but “smear campaign” ahead of first Europeon Olympic Games. Stop denigrating and belittling Azerbaijan in international arena!!!

Narmina Abbasova (@AbbasovaNarmi)

one more boring, biased article. Try something new… maybe on rights of azerbaijani refugees