In Azerbaijan even the lawyers have trouble defending themselves against the judicial arbitrariness in courts


Elchin Sadigov

Analysis of violation of law during Elchin Sadigov’s judicial proceedings

Baku City Binagadi District Court

Case №4 (001)-1035/2022

11 September 2022

Judge: Farid Amiraliyev

Defendant: Elchin Sadigov

Defender: Shahla Humbatova, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev

Plaintiff: a Junior Counsellor of Justice, Teymur Qarayev,  an investigator in charge of serious cases in the Investigation Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Azerbaijan Republic

Representative of the plaintiff: a Junior Counsellor of Justice, Hagverdi Mehrabov, a Senior Prosecutor in the Investigation Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Azerbaijan Republic.


Elchin Sadigov is a member of the Bar Association who has defended many political prisoners. He previously worked at the Media Rights Institute and mainly specialised in defending the journalists. E. Sadigov was a defending attorney for the journalist Parviz Hashimli, political activist Qiyas Ibrahimov, human rights activist Leyla Yunus, journalists Afgan Sadigov and Avaz Zeynalli, Ziya Ibrahimov, a political activist deported from Germany to Azerbaijan, and many others arrested on political grounds.

Elchin Sadigov has repeatedly been subjected to heavy pressure due to his activities. The Azerbaijani Bar Association has initiated numerous disciplinary proceedings against him, and at the highest level there have been cybercrimes of a threatening nature.

On 10 September 2022, E. Sadigov was charged with offences under the Articles 32.5 and 311.3.3 (Aiding and abetting in large-scale bribery) of the Azerbaijan Republic Criminal Code.

The office of Elchin Sadigov and his wife, Zibeyda Sadigova, a lawyer, was searched by the officers of the General Prosecutor’s Office Investigation Department at night from 10 to 11 September 2022.  Elchin Sadigov couldn’t assist the search since his freedom had been already restricted starting from 10 September 2022.

It should be pointed out that the journalist and Head of Xural TV Avaz Zeynalli was charged along with E. Sadigov in the same case. In his turn, he was charged with committing a crime under the Article 311.3.3 (A bribe on a large scale) of the Azerbaijan Republic Criminal Code.

Just three days later after Elchin Sadigov’s arrest, Zibeyda Sadigova claimed that her husband had not been allowed to contact his family or even to meet with his lawyer. While in detention, E. Sadigov denied meals, officially submitting his statement to the management of the detention facility of the State Security Service, where he had been held.

On 11 September 2022, the Baku Binagadi District Court issued a restraint order against Mr. Sadigov: arrest for a period of 4 months.


Commentary by expert lawyer:

The court verdict is unlawful and unjustified. We shall examine the Article on which E. Sadigov has been charged. According to the Article 32.5, 311.3.3 of the Azerbaijan Republic Criminal Code, receiving a bribe by an official in exchange for illegal actions on a large scale is punishable by imprisonment for a term of 8 to 12 years.

“The person who temporarily, permanently or by special authorization performs administrative or organisational functions in the state bodies, municipal or state institutions, local authorities or performs functions of a representative of power is the perpetrator of the offence of bribery.” –

However, Mr. Sadigov is not an official. He is a lawyer. He does not fulfil any administrative or organisational functions in the government bodies. He is a member of the Bar Association.

The Article 1 of the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan On lawyers and legal practice states,

“Legal practice in the Republic of Azerbaijan shall mean an independent legal institution which professionally exercises legal protection activity.”

This provision clearly indicates that an advocate cannot be a subject of this Article as he is not a public official.

Besides the violation of the Substantive Law of the Criminal Code, it was also a violation of the principles of the criminal procedure.

One of the most important rights of any democratic society is the right to freedom. It is enshrined in the Constitution, the Fundamental Law of Azerbaijan.

According to the Article 28 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan,

  1. Everyone has the right for freedom.
  2. Right for freedom might be restricted only as specified by law, by way of detention, arrest or imprisonment.

Moreover, one of the principles of criminal procedure is also the right to liberty, and it is enshrined in the Article 14 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Azerbaijan Republic.

The right to liberty is enshrined in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Article 5(1), the Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December, 1948, and in the Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the UN on 16 December, 1966, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This right is a fundamental right amongst the most important rights. It is a non-derogable right that cannot be waived by an individual. The guarantees enshrined in this norm apply to everyone: anyone at liberty or in custody has this right.

Despite the existence of these norms in the National and International legislation, the court issued a ruling in the case of arrest of Elchin Sadigov that was not supported by the norms of Law. It was based on a biased and groundless perception of the defendant.

According to the Article 154.2 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Azerbaijan Republic, restrictive measures may be the following:

  • arrest;
  • house arrest;
  • bail;
  • restraining order;
  • personal surety;
  • surety offered by an organisation;
  • police supervision;
  • supervision;
  • military observation;
  • removal from office or position.

Among the listed preventive measures, an arrest is the measure that fully restricts a person’s freedom. Unfortunately, this measure is used much more frequently in the Azerbaijani courts, I would say in 90% of criminal cases, instead of alternative measures of restraint. In the case of political activists, independent journalists, and others, as a rule, an arrest is applied in all cases.

The court imposed the harshest measure of restraint for no reason whatsoever. The lawyer’s arrest was neither necessary nor in the public interest.  E. Sadigov could not have caused any danger to national security.

As grounds justifying the arrest, the court laid down all the grounds that had been stated in the application and submission for arrest, i.e:

  • hiding from the body conducting the criminal proceedings;
  • obstructing the normal course of the preliminary investigation or court proceedings by exerting unlawful pressure on the persons involved in the criminal proceedings, by concealing or falsifying the significant for criminal prosecution materials;
  • failure without a valid excuse to appear in the court when summoned by the authority conducting the criminal proceedings or evading criminal prosecution and serving the sentence in any other way.

It is worth recalling again that E. Sadigov is a lawyer for human rights protection and has always defended the rights that are being trampled most of all in Azerbaijan: the right to freedom, the right to express an opinion and other important rights. Therefore, the investigating authority’s grounds and the court’s confirmation of these grounds look more than silly and illogical. Furthermore, there was not a single piece of evidence to justify the arrest of E. Sadigov in the course of the trial.

The court failed to take an individual approach to the case when imposing the preventive measure. It adopted a blanket approach and voiced abstract arguments.

The Article 155.2 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Azerbaijan Republic states, that in resolving the question of the necessity for a restrictive measure and which of them to apply to the specific suspect or accused, the preliminary investigator, investigator, prosecutor in charge of the procedural aspects of the investigation or court shall bear in mind his personality, age, health and occupation and his family, financial and social positions, including whether he has dependents and a permanent residence. If the court had taken into account E. Sadigov’s personal background, it would have indicated that he had a permanent place of residence, a job, three young children, one of whom was seriously ill, and his reputation in the country and beyond. But instead the court said that for the charges brought against him he would face a future sentence exceeding two years of imprisonment (under the Article 158.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Azerbaijan Republic).

The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case of Weeks v. the United Kingdom, 2 March 1987, it is written

“The Article 5 applies to ‘everyone’. Anyone at liberty or in custody shall have the right to defence, i. e. the right not to be deprived of liberty, except the requirements stated in the 1st paragraph and, if under arrest or detention, the right to benefit from the various guarantees referred to in the paragraphs 2-5 insofar as they are taken into consideration”.{%22fulltext%22:[%22Weeks%20v.%22],%22documentcollectionid2%22:[%22GRANDCHAMBER%22,%22CHAMBER%22],%22itemid%22:[%22001-57594%22]}

Apart from the violation of his right to liberty, since the day of his arrest his procedural rights have also been violated. The arrest took place at night, from Saturday to Sunday. While in detention, he was not allowed either to call his family for a week, nor to meet with the lawyers of his choice.

The Article 91.5 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Azerbaijan Republic enumerates the rights of the accused. Thus, every accused person has the right:

  • has a defence lawyer starting from the moment of his or her detention or indictment;
  • shall have the assistance of a defender free of charge;
  • immediately upon his/her arrest, inform by telephone or other means his/her close relatives or other persons with whom he/she has a legitimate connection by informing them of his/her arrest or detention and the place of detention; if the detainee is a foreign national or stateless person, he/she shall immediately inform the diplomatic mission or consular office of his/her country of citizenship or permanent residency in Azerbaijan, or a National or International Organization, which has assumed legal custody of him/her;
  • to independently choose a defence counsel, terminate his or her mandate and, if he/she renounces the counsel’s services, conduct his/ her own defence;
  • has a private and confidential meeting with the defence lawyer without any limitation regarding the number and duration of the meetings, etc.

The Article 6 (3) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, also protects the individual’s personal liberty:

Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:

(a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;

(b) to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence;

(c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;

(d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;

(e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak

the language used in court.

The judgment of the European Court of Justice (ECHR) in the case of Artico v Italy of 13 May, 1980, it is stated

“The Convention is intended to guarantee not theoretical or illusory rights but rather their practical and effective implementation; this is particularly true in respect of the right to defence, which is a prominent right in a democratic society, as the right to a fair trial from which it derives –{%22fulltext%22:[%22Artico%22],%22documentcollectionid2%22:[%22GRANDCHAMBER%22,%22CHAMBER%22],%22itemid%22:[%22001-57424%22]}

All of the above demonstrates that the court, once again in this criminal case, was not applying a preventive measure in accordance with the law and a specific, individual approach but rather with a biased attitude. The restraint measure was imposed on the assumptions, and not on the basis of the specific evidence. With regard to the lawyer taking acre of human rights, his fundamental rights were violated: the right to liberty, the right to defence, the right to call the family and relatives, and other rights. Moreover, Elchin Sadigov could not be the perpetrator of the incriminated crime. Once again, the Court violated the obligations that Azerbaijan undertook when the country joined the Council of Europe.