Sport for Rights's Open Letters to the Presidents and Prime Ministers of 12 European countries

Letter from the Sport for Rights Campaign, which OMCT is a member of, to the Presidents and Prime Ministers of 12 European countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Danmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Lithuania, Ireland, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom.

'Sport for Rights' campaign, of which OMCT is member, has been established to raise the problem of political prisoners in the context of the forthcoming international sporting events to be hosted by Azerbaijan.

Dear President XXX and PrimeMinister XXX,

As members of the Sport for Rights campaign, we are writingregarding the inaugural European Games that will take place from 12-28 June inBaku, Azerbaijan.

Although the Azerbaijani regime spends a great deal of time andmoney to promote a positive image abroad, at home, it is engaged in a brutalhuman rights crackdown. This crackdown has particularly intensified over thepast year, as the authorities have worked aggressively to silence all forms ofcriticism and dissent.

As a result, there are now dozens ofpolitical prisoners in the country, including eight journalists and five humanrights defenders (listed in the appendix), jailed on spurious charges, withsome facing prison sentences of up to 12 years. Another human rights defenderis trapped in the Swiss embassy in Baku, facing arrest if he leaves. These individualshave been targeted for their work defending the rights of others and tellingthe truth about the situation in their country.

In light of these serious problems, we are asking you to make yourparticipation in the opening ceremony of the Games contingent on the release ofthe jailed journalists and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan. Similarly, weask that you do not send a high-level government delegation to the Games unlessthese individuals are released. Further, we urge you to make an immediatepublic statement condemning the ongoing human rights crackdown in the countryand calling for the release of the jailed journalists and human rightsdefenders.

We want to be clear that we are not calling for a public boycott ofthe Games. We are simply asking you to take this opportunity to impact positive,democratic change, and to help our Azerbaijani colleagues, in the spirit of Lithuanianvalues.

Sincerely yours,

(for the signatory organisations, please see the pdf attached)


Jailed journalists:

1. NijatAliyev – editor-in-chief of the website,serving a 10-year prison sentence on spurious charges of drug possession andthe illegal import and sale of religious literature.

2. ArazGuliyev – editor of the website, serving aneight-year prison sentence on spurious charges of illegal possession ofweapons, inciting hatred, and offensive action against the flag or emblem ofAzerbaijan.

3. ParvizHashimliBizim Yolnewspaper reporter and editor of the website, serving aneight-year prison sentence on spurious charges of organising the sale ofweapons from Iran.

4. SeymurHeziAzadliq newspaper reporterand presenter of the Azerbaijan Hour satellite television programme, serving afive-year prison sentence on spurious hooliganism charges.

5. KhadijaIsmayilova – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist detainedon spurious charges of embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion,abuse of power, and inciting someone to attempt suicide.

6. HilalMammadov – editor-in-chief of Tolishi Sedo newspaper, serving a five-year prison sentence onspurious charges of drug possession, treason, and inciting hatred.

7. RaufMirkadirovZerkalonewspaper columnist, detained on spurious treason charges, awaiting trial.

8. TofigYagubluYenu Musavatnewspaper columnist, serving a five-year prison sentence on spurious charges oforganising mass riots and using violence against police officers.

Jailed (and effectively jailed) human rights defenders:

1. Intigam Aliyev – human rights lawyer and Chairmanof the Legal Education Society, serving a 7.5-year prison sentence on spuriouscharges of tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, and abuse of power.

2. Emin Huseynov – Director of the Institute forReporters’ Freedom and Safety, trapped at the Swiss Embassy in Baku, facingarrest on spurious charges of tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, and abuseof power.

3. Rasul Jafarov – Chairman of the Human RightsClub, serving a 6.5-year prison sentence on spurious charges of tax evasion,illegal entrepreneurship, and abuse of power.

4. Anar Mammadli – Chairman of the ElectionMonitoring and Democracy Studies Centre, serving a 5.5-year prison sentence onspurious charges of tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, and abuse of power.

5. Arif Yunus – historian and academic, detainedon spurious charges of treason and fraud, awaiting trial.

6. Leyla Yunus – Director of the Institute forPeace and Democracy, detained on spurious charges of treason, fraud, forgery,tax evasion, and illegal entrepreneurship, awaiting trial.