Urgent Interventions

Crackdown after the 2012 Eurovision contest


Crackdown in Azerbaijan after the 2012 Eurovision contest

Paris – Geneva, 25 June 2012 - The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) express grave concern regarding arrests, detentions and inhuman treatments targeting human rights defenders, independent journalists and opposition figures in Azerbaijan. Repressive practices also intensify against activists who took part in the “Sing for Democracy” campaign on the eve of the Eurovision Song Contest 2012.

On 22 June, human rights defender Hilal Mamedov, editor-in-chief of Tolishi-Sado newspaper, has been charged by the Nizami District Court under Article 234 of the Criminal Code for alleged drug possession. FIDH and OMCT fear that the criminal case against him is fabricated and actually tightly connected to his professional activities. On 21 June, the police allegedly seized five grams of heroin from Mamedov, and found another thirty grams at his house. The journalist has been sent to the Shuvalan preliminary investigation prison for three months and he faces five to twelve years of imprisonment if he is found guilty.

Human Rights defender and Kura Civil Society staff coordinator, Oktay Gulaliyev, was arrested in April 2012 and charged under Article 220.2 of the Criminal Code (resistance to orders from authorities and incitement to mass riots and violence towards citizens). While in Shuvalan Special Isolator N3, a pre-trial detention centre in Baku, Oktay Gulaliyev was hit in the head, stomach and lower parts of his body, insulted and threatened. Even though his health was deteriorating, he was not allowed to receive any medical treatment. He was released on 13 June 2012, but his criminal case has not been dropped and he can be sentenced up to three years of detention.

On 8 June 2012, Ilham Amiraslanov, another activist from Kura Civil Society, was arrested by operatives of the Anti-Organized Crime Department of the Ministry of Interior of Sabirabad. During his detention, Ilham Amiraslanov was beaten and tortured. On 19 June 2012, a letter describing how he was tortured was addressed to the Head of General Prosecutor’s Office and published on Facebook.

On 12 June 2012, 23-year-old human rights blogger Mehman Huseynov was detained for about 24 hours in the Sabail District Police office in Baku. He was interrogated for allegedly having insulted and used force against a member of the special forces during an opposition demonstration in Baku on 21 May 2012, on the eve of the Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals. During a court hearing on 13 June 2012, he was charged with “hooliganism committed with resistance to representative of the authority”, under Article 222.2 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan, and now faces up to five years of imprisonment. Mehman Huseynov has been released, but he cannot leave Baku during the two months of preliminary investigation.

According to Azerbaijani human rights defenders, Mehman Huseynov's detention is a means of putting pressure on his brother, Emin Huseynov, head of the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS).

On 11 June 2012, Iranian journalist Anar Bayramli from Sahar TV was sentenced to two years of prison. In February 2012, just after the speaker of Azerbaijan's Parliament suggested that Sahar TV was “preparing anti-Azerbaijan provocations”, the journalist was arrested by the police for drug possession. On 13 June 2012, another journalist and speaker of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), Natiq Adilov, was summoned by police and interrogated about a protest held on 24 May 2012 in front of Azerbaijan's state public television center. He was released after being advised to stop his "antigovernment activity” and to quit the APFP.

FIDH and OMCT call on Azerbaijani authorities to:

· immediately stop all forms of harassment and persecution against human rights defenders, journalists and opposition figures ;

· conduct a thorough investigation of the ill-treatment of Oktay Gulaliyev and Ilham Amiraslanov, arrest the perpetrators and try them before an independent court ;

· respect and protect the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Azerbaijani Constitution, and international and regional standards binding upon Azerbaijan.

Press contact:

Arthur Manet (FIDH): +33 6 72 28 42 94,

Alexandra Kossin (OMCT): +41 22 809 49 39,