He fled from Iran to escape jail there but ended up in prison in Azerbaijan


Puya Purkhimmati 

Analysis of violation of law during Puya Purkhimmati’s  judicial proceedings

Baku City Sabayil District Court

Case № 4(009)-722/2023

14 October 2023

Presiding judge: Madina Bagirova

Defendant: Puya Purkhimmati

Defender: Nizami Aliyev

With the participation of the Captain of Justice Qeys Mammadov, an investigator from the Investigation Division within the State Border Guard Service of the Azerbaijan Republic, and Ilkin Abdullayev, a Prosecutor from the Department for Supervising the Execution of Laws in Investigation, Inquiry and Operative Investigation Activities in the State Security, Emergency Situations and State Border Service Bodies under the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Azerbaijan Republic

Puya Purkhimmati, ethnic Azerbaijani, a citizen of the Iranian Islamic Republic, was born in the city of Julfa in 1987. He is married and has a university degree.

On 20 September 2022, the rallies against the actions of the Iranian authorities in the city of Tabriz took place. The protestors were dispersed by the police. One of the participants of the action was Puya Purkhimmati. He was arrested for participation in that rally. The Tabriz Revolutionary Court found P. Purkhimmati guilty of  “participation in an assembly for the purpose of committing an offence against the internal and external security of the country”.

According to P. Purkhimmati’s words, while in jail, he was interrogated and ill-treated for six days.

12 days later, P. Purkhimmati was released on bail of 200 million Tuman (the currency of Iran). Soon, the Court issued the ruling against P. Purkhimmati. He was found guilty of the charge and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. He was also subjected to an additional punishment of a 2-year ban on travelling outside the country. The Tabriz security authorities declared him wanted again right after the custodial sentence.

On 12 October 2023, P. Purkhimmati surrendered to the Border Guard Service of the Azerbaijan Republic in Ardabil province at the Beylasar border, had raised a white flag. He requested a political asylum in Azerbaijan.

However, the Azerbaijani investigative bodies have brought charges against P.Purkhimmati with committing an offence under the Article 318.1 (Crossing of protected frontier of the Azerbaijan Republic without established documents or outside of check point of frontier) of the Criminal Code of the Azerbaijan Republic.

In the course of the trial P.Purkhimmati’s lawyer petitioned the Court to order a preventive measure in the form of house arrest.

On 14 October 2023, the Baku Sabayil District Court adopted an order: to satisfy the investigator’s petition for a preventive measure in the form of arrest against P. Purkhimmati, reject the defence’s one, and apply a preventive measure in the form of arrest for 2 months.


Commentary by expert lawyer:

The court verdict is unlawful and unjustified.

The case of P. Purkhimmati is atypical for Azerbaijan. It is quite seldom that other countries’ citizens apply to Azerbaijan in search of political asylum. There are a number of political as well as economic reasons behind it.

The Azerbaijani mass media have repeatedly covered the problem that P. Purkhimmati had faced in Iran. As an ethnic Azerbaijani, he often spoke out against the illegal actions of the Iranian authorities. Due to his political convictions P. Purkhimmati’s stay in the country had been impossible.

As said above, P. Purkhimmati raised a white flag at the border. He had been attempting to surrender to Azerbaijan in order to receive a political asylum. But despite of the Legal Norms of Domestic and International Legislation, he was arrested and accused of violating the State border.

According to the Article 70 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan

  1. In accordance with recognized international legal standards the Azerbaijan Republic grants political refuge to foreign citizens and stateless persons.
  2. Extradition of persons persecuted for their political beliefs and also for acts which are not regarded as crime in the Azerbaijan Republic is not permitted.

The Article 4 of the “On the status of refugees and internally displaced persons (displaced persons within the country)” of the Law of the Azerbaijan Republic,

A person who wants to receive refugee status is allowed to enter the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan from the border control points in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The Article 5 of this Law states,

A person who illegally came to the Republic of Azerbaijan from another state for the reasons specified in the first part of Article 1 of this Law and applied to the relevant competent body as soon as possible is released from the responsibility provided for in the legislation of the Republic of Azerbaijan by the reasoned decision of that body.

If we consider the punishment stipulated by the Article 318.1 of the Criminal Code of the Azerbaijan Republic., under which P. Purkhimmati was charged, we will find that it provides not only for imprisonment for up to 2 years but also an alternative punishment in the form of a fine of 200 to 500 manat. The alleged offence falls into the category of less serious ones.

The Court imposed the harshest preventive measure in the form of arrest against the accused, no ruling’s justification has been provided. In addition, the chosen preventive measure is absolutely illogical in this case. As stated above, P. Purkhimmati had approached Azerbaijan to seek a political asylum. His escape in this case is unrealistic.

The Court, as in many other cases, did not justify the chosen preventive measure.

A Resolution of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Azerbaijan Republic from 3 November 2009 is stated that the Courts do not comply with the requirements of the Law in this area. At the same time, it is known that mistakes have been made during the application of the Legislation, in particular, the validity of the submitted petitions is not verified,  the Courts’ rulings do not justify the grounds for selecting the strictest preventive measure in the form of arrest stipulated in the Article 154.2 of the Azerbaijan Republic  Criminal Procedure Code; instead, the Courts use such common expressions as “the probability of hiding from the body conducting the criminal proceedings”, “interference in the normal course of the investigation”, “failure to appear at the call of the body conducting the criminal proceedings”;  either the practice of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and  requirements of the Criminal Procedural Legislation are not taken into account.

In the above Resolution of the Azerbaijan Republic Supreme Court Plenum is underlined that the Courts should first of all consider application of a preventive measure in the form of arrest, as well as justify the impossibility of applying alternative preventive measures not related to arrest (e.g. bail, house arrest, etc.).

In this case, the Court deviated from its legal duties, failed to consider applications of any alternative preventive measures, did not justify the application of the strictest preventive measure, thus putting the legitimacy of the arrest under a good and great question.

It has been stated above that P. Purkhimmati was hiding from the Iranian political persecution, the charge brought against him in this country was purely political and related only to his political convictions.

In respect of P. Purkhimmati, the Court violated the Right to Liberty enshrines in the Article 28 of the Azerbaijani Constitution as well as in the Article 5(1) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

According to the Article 69 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan

  1. Foreign citizens and stateless persons staying in the Azerbaijan Republic may enjoy all rights and must fulfil all obligations like citizens of the Azerbaijan Republic if not specified by legislation or international agreement in which the Azerbaijan Republic is one of the parties.

The investigative bodies and the Court were obliged to ensure the Right to Liberty for an Iranian citizen who had being persecuted by the Iranian authorities for his political belief and arrived in Azerbaijan.

In proclaiming the Right to Liberty, Article 5(1), the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms refers to personal liberty in its classical sense, i.e. an individual’s physical freedom. In this Article there is a list of cases where deprivation of the Right to Liberty and security of person may be legitimate.

The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case of Aksoy v. Turkey from 18 September 1996 it was said,

“The Court underlines the importance of Article 5 of Convention: it enshrines a fundamental human Right, namely the protection of everyone’s Right to Liberty against an arbitrary interference by any State. The Judicial control over executive interference into individual’s right to liberty is an essential feature of the guarantees embodied in Article 5 para. 3, which are designed to minimise the risk of arbitrariness and to guarantee the rule of law (…)”. – https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/#{%22itemid%22:[%22001-58003%22]}

In turn, in the Judgment of the ECHR in the case of Quinn v. France from 22 March 1995, the European Court points out,

“This norm requires first and foremost the ‘lawfulness’ of the detention, including compliance with the procedure of Law. The Convention points primarily to the duty to comply with National Law but, in addition, requires that any measure of deprivation of liberty must fulfil the purpose of Article 5: to protect the individual against arbitrariness.”

Taking into account all the above, it is obvious to conclude that the investigative bodies and Court in the case of P. Purkhimmati did not comply with the norms of National and International Legislations, including the Article 70  on granting asylum enshrined in the Constitution of Azerbaijan, Article 5 (1) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, as well as the precedents of the European Court of Human Rights, which are binding on the member states of the Council of Europe.