Azerbaijan
20.03.03
Urgent Interventions

Azerbaijan: release of demonstrators while main Nardaran trial continues

Case AZE 060602.10
Follow-up of Case AZE 060602
Arbitrary detention / Releases / Fair trial

Geneva, March 20th, 2003

The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Azerbaijan.

New Information

The International Secretariat of the OMCT has received new information from the Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan, a member of the OMCT network, regarding the status of the demonstrators that were arrested on February 5, 2003 in Nardaran, Azerbaijan.

According to the information received, suspended sentences were handed down to eight of the Nardaran demonstrators who were arrested during the police raid on February 5th, 2002. The sentences were handed down on March 3rd, 2003 from the Sabunchu district court of Baku city. Yakhshibeyov Hamid Ibrahim oglu was sentenced to 3-years suspended imprisonment, Rahibzade Aliabbas Safqulu oglu was sentenced to one year suspended imprisonment, and the following men received 2-year suspended sentences: Huseynov Aliakbar Hummat oglu, Hasanov Seyid Azer Hamza oglu, Alhasov Mikayil Hadjiali oglu, Hashimov Anar Farhad oglu, Talybzade Niyazi Ahmadaga oglu, and Abbasov Ali Miryasif oglu. According to the information received, these men must periodically check in with the police and need to get permission from the government before they leave the country.

All eight of these persons have now been released, but 15 persons who were arrested prior to them still remain in detention. The trial concerning this group of prisoners is proceeding very slowly, with long breaks between the sessions, and our sources indicate that there is little hope that the trial will result in an outcome that is in line with internationally standards for fair trial. This is in part due to the allegedly poor quality of the legal representation that the defendants have at their disposal. Thus far, 42 witnesses for the defence have not testified in the scheduled hearings, due to a reported desire on the part of the defence to shorten the trial. Their lawyer has stated “there is no hope for impartiality of the trial” and that “the defendants would like to shorten the time of their sufferings.” The defence lawyers have also reportedly failed to make appropriate use evidence that supports the defendants’ cases, notably that which comes from an independent public commission investigation into these events. The judge has also refused to release on bail ill defendants: Alikram Aliyev, Alikram Allahverdiyev, Agahuseyn Asgarov and Ilqar Abdullayev despite their health problems.

The International Secretariat of OMCT welcomes the release of the afore-mentioned persons, but remains concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of those persons that are still in detention in relation with the events in Nardaran. OMCT urges the authorities to guarantee their personal integrity and to ensure that the police immediately release them. Furthermore, OMCT urges the authorities to immediately cease the harassment and use of disproportionate force against the demonstrators and people of Nardaran. Finally, OMCT calls on the authorities to launch an immediate and impartial investigation into the alleged violent repression, including shootings, of demonstrators and to bring the perpetrators of these acts to justice.

Brief reminder of the situation

According to the information received, on February 5th, 2003, at 4:15 in the morning, five busloads of police officers staged an operation in Nardaran in order to arrest persons responsible for organizing or participating in demonstrations against the authorities. These events occur against a background of ongoing civil unrest in Nardaran since, on June 3rd, 2002, members of the police and the Ministry of Internal affairs (MIA) arbitrarily arrested and shot various demonstrators who had participated in a demonstration on the May 7th, killing one and wounding several others. The trials of 15 persons that were arrested at that time have led to further demonstrating in Nardaran (see previous appeals for more information concerning these situations). Many persons have engaged in demonstrations in Nardaran’s central square and even spend the night on site, sleeping in a large tent in a park.

The authorities were reportedly aiming to arrest Mr.Yakhshibeyov Hamid Ibrahim oglu who was on a wanted list for not voluntarily turning himself in to be tried as part of the afore-mentioned trials. Claiming that they had found weapons on some of the demonstrators, the police then reportedly opened fire on them, resulting in injuries to 17 people, including the afore-mentioned Alimmamed Azimov and Rahibzade Kazym Safiqulu oglu.

Although the formal reason of the operation was to arrest Mr. Hamid Yakhshibeyov, eight people were also arrested and were either being administratively detained having been charged with resisting the police or detained on criminal charges of possession of weapons (the police claimed to have seized 2 pistols and 7 hand grenades during the operation). The trial of the persons arrested in relation with the initial events on June 3rd, 2002, is currently ongoing, and there are grave concerns that it will end in sentences being handed down despite procedural irregularities.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities in Azerbaijan urging them to:

i. guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of all persons being detained in relation with the events in Nardaran, and guarantee their procedural rights at all times;
ii. order a thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances these events, notably the allegations of arbitrary arrests, beatings and shootings of demonstrators, in order to identify those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;
iii. put an immediate end to the persecution and harassment of these demonstrators;
iv. guarantee adequate reparation to all injured persons;
v. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with international human rights standards.

Addresses

· H.E. Heydar Aliev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Office of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 19 Istiqlaliyyat St., Baku 370066, Azerbaijan, Fax: +994 12 92 06 25, +994 12 92 28 68, e-mail: office@apparat.gov.az, president@gov.az, root@lider.baku.az
· Prosecutor's Office, 7 Nigar Rafibeyli St., Baku, Azerbaijan, Fax: +994 12 92 06 82, +994 12 92 26 63 E-mail: prosec@azeri.com

Please also write to the embassies of Azerbaijan in your respective country.

Geneva, March 20th, 2003

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
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