Qiyas Ibrahimov has been subjected to persecution and arrests since 2016


Qiyas Ibrahimova

Analysis of violation of law during Qiyas Ibrahimov’s judicial proceedings

Baku City Nizami District Court

Case № 3(007)-3474/2023

24 June 2023

Presiding judge: Niqar Qadirli

The person against whom an administrative record was issued: Qiyas Ibrahimov

Defender: Elchin Sadigov

On 10 May 2016, Qiyas Ibrahimov, a young activist, was arrested for the first time for graffiti on the monument of ex-president Heydar Aliyev. The graffiti was done together with his friend Bayram Mamedov. On 10 May, Heydar Aliyev’s birthday, they wrote on the monument “Happy Slaves’ Day!”.

Following that, and especially after their arrest, Qiyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov, his friend and associate, became widely known to the public of the country. Although they were arrested for the graffiti on the monument dedicated to Heydar Aliyev, officially they were formally charged with fraudulent accusations of illegal drug trafficking on a large scale. The Court sentenced both of them to 10 years imprisonment. In the Court of Appeal, Qiyas Ibrahimov faced a new charge of “Contempt of Court” for a phrase he addressed to the judges: “You are puppets in robes”.

Qiyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov were recognized as “prisoners of conscience” by the local and international Human Rights organizations. In March 2019, due to an act of pardon, the two activists were released.

On 2 May 2021, Bayram Mammadov perished under unclear circumstances in Turkey. The official Turkish authorities’ version was considered to be an accident. His body was found in the sea.

Qiyas Ibrahimov has continued his activity. He had been organizing a number of protests, for which he was repeatedly brought to the administrative charges.

On 20 June 2023, the residents of Soyudlu village in the Gadabay region took to the streets to protest against the contamination of water and soil caused by the industrial waste at the gold mines, which are dangerous to their life and health. As a result, 5 residents as well as activists who expressed their protest on the social networks were arrested. In addition, the journalists who came to the village to cover the events were subjected to physical harassment by the police officers. During the rally, the police used physical force and tear gas against the protesters.

On 22 June 2023, on his Facebook page, Qiyas Ibrahimov published a post expressing his extremely negative opinion regarding the occurred events. He sharply criticized the authorities’ conduct.

On the very same day, a District Police Officer and others came to the Qiyas Ibrahimov’s house while Qiyas’ mother was at home. The policemen detained the activist and demanded to remove the FB post. But Qiyas Ibrahimov refused to do it.

Qiyas Ibrahimov was charged with administrative offence under the Article 535.1 (Disorderly Conduct) of the Administrative Offences Code of the Azerbaijan Republic. On 22 June 2023, the Baku City Nizami District Court issued a ruling against Qiyas Ibrahimov on the basis of which he was found guilty of committing an administrative offense under the same Article 535.1 of the Administrative Offences Code of the Azerbaijan Republic and sentenced to 30 days of administrative detention.

On 24 June 2023, Qiyas Ibrahimov was again brought to the Court.  In this case, he was charged with another Article 388-1.1.1 “Publication of the prohibited information on the Internet resource or telecommunication network, as well as failure to prevent the placement of such an information” of the Administrative Offences Code of the Azerbaijan Republic.

On 24 June 2023, the Baku City Nizami District Court issued a ruling: to find Qiyas Ibrahimov guilty on the charges and sentence him to 32 days of administrative arrest.

From the first day of his arrest Qiyas Ibrahimov announced the beginning of a “dry” hunger strike in protest against the Soyudlu events. As he was very weak due to the hunger strike, Qiyas Ibrahimov was physically brought to the trial at the Court of Appeal. He felt ill and lost consciousness in the courtroom. Then, Shura Amiraslanova, Ibrahimov’s mother, who was in the courtroom, also got unwell. Giyas Ibrahimov remained collapsed for about an hour until the ambulance arrived. He was given medical assistance, and shortly afterwards Ibrahimov stopped his hunger strike.


Commentary by expert lawyer:

The court verdict is unlawful and unjustified.

The above case is a typical example of the right to freedom of expression violation. But this time the Azerbaijani authorities demonstrated “creativity” by charging Qiyas Ibrahimov for publishing prohibited information on the Internet or telecommunication network.

Thus, in the court ruling, there was provided the entire text of Qiyas Ibrahimov’s post, followed by the links to the Law of the Azerbaijan Republic “On Information, Computerization and Protection of Information” and the Code of Administrative Offences of the Azerbaijan Republic.

There is no evidence of Qiyas Ibrahimov’s guilt in the ruling. The Law Enforcement Authorities did not submit any expert opinion that would have evaluated the published post. The Court refers to the Article 13-2.3 of the Azerbaijan Republic Law “On Information, Computerization and Protection of Information”, where listed the examples of prohibited information, as:

  • financing and propaganda of terrorism, methods and means of its implementation, organization and carrying out of events for the purpose of terrorism, as well as open calls to terrorism;
  • propaganda of violence and religious extremism, open calls for national, racial or religious enmity, violent amendment of the constitutional state order, violation of territorial integrity, violent seizure and retention of power, and mass riots;
  • state confidentiality;
  • rules or procedures for the manufacturing of firearms, component parts, ammunition, or explosives;
  • regulations for the manufacturing of narcotic, psychotropic substances and their precursors, places of their illegal acquisition, as well as locations and methods of cultivating plants containing narcotic substances;
  • pornographic material, including those relating to child pornography;
  • inciting the organization and participation in gambling and other illegal games;
  • advertising suicide as a means for solving problems, advocating, justifying, and inciting suicide, describing methods of committing suicide, and organizing suicide by a group of people;
  • movies, television and videos which specify the age requirement in accordance with the Law of the Azerbaijan Republic “On Child Protection from Harmful Information”, including animation movies, computer or other electronic games (except for those in the category of “universal”);
  • offensive or defamatory, including those violating an individual’s right to personal privacy;
  • false statements damaging to human life and health, property, mass disruption of public safety, vital facilities, financial, transportation, communications, industrial, energy infrastructure activities or statements that create a threat that could have potentially jeopardizing socially harmful consequences;
  • information prohibited by the laws of the Azerbaijan Republic.

As can be seen, the Law contains a list of prohibited for publication information. In the Court ruling, there is no reference to any of the above-mentioned provisions, the court did not indicate what kind of prohibited information Qiyas Ibrahimov spread in his posting, what exactly violated his post, whose interests or rights were affected or violated. The ruling contains nothing but broad, formal sentences and superficial references to the law without a relevant interpretation.

The Right to Freedom of Expression is enshrined in both National and International laws. According to the Article 47 of the Constitution of the Azerbaijan Republic,

  1. Everyone may enjoy freedom of thought and speech.
  2. Nobody should be forced to promulgate his/her thoughts and convictions or to renounce his/her thoughts and convictions.

The International Juridical Norms also point to the Right to Liberty. According to the Article 10 (1) of the European Convention on Human Rights,

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

This provision also contains limitations. Thus, the European Convention states (art. 10, para. 2) The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

First of all, it is necessary to conduct a test to determine whether there has been interference by the authorities in respect of the right to freedom of expression and whether this interference was legitimate (lawful). The answer to the first question in the present case is “yes, there was”. The answer to the second question can be provided by referring to the national and international legal norms. As mentioned above, the Court did not provide a direct answer to this question in its judgment, as it did not indicate any specific provision that was violated by Qiyas Ibrahimov and which became the reason for his long-term arrest.

If Qiyas Ibrahimov’s post failed to contain anything that violated the Law, it means that his arrest was not legitimate, therefore the Right to his Liberty was also violated. We will discuss it below.

An important aspect of the case is that Qiyas Ibrahimov’s posting did not contain any information but rather his assessments of the events that took place in the village of Soyudlu.

The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case of De Haes et Gijsels v. Belgiumfrom February 24, 1997, it was written,

“The Court reiterates that a careful distinction needs to be made between facts and value judgments. The existence of facts can be demonstrated, whereas the truth of value judgments is not susceptible of proof”. –  https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/#{%22itemid%22:[%22001-58015%22]}

“As regards value-judgments this requirement is impossible of fulfilment and it infringes freedom of opinion itself, which is a fundamental part of the right secured by Article 10 (art. 10) of the Convention.” (Judgment of the European Court of Justice in Lingens v. Austria of July 8, 1986). – https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/#{%22fulltext%22:[%22lingens%20v.%22],%22documentcollectionid2%22:[%22GRANDCHAMBER%22,%22CHAMBER%22],%22itemid%22:[%22001-57523%22]}

The arrest of Qiyas Ibrahimov has an intimidating nature for all those who are willing to publicly express their negative opinion on the events taking place in the country.

In this regard, the judgment of the European Court of Justice in the case of Barfod v. Denmark of February 22, 1989 said,

“In the present case proportionality implies that the pursuit of the aims mentioned in Article 10 para. 2 has to be weighed against the value of open discussion of topics of public concern (…). When striking a fair balance between these interests, the Court cannot overlook(…), the great importance of not discouraging members of the public, for fear of criminal or other sanctions, from voicing their opinions on issues of public concern.” – https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/#{%22itemid%22:[%22001-57430%22]}

The European Court “recalls that the dominant position exercised by the State authorities requires it to show restraint when it comes to criminal prosecutions. The authorities of a democratic State must be tolerant towards criticism, even if it may be regarded as provocative or offensive” (judgment of the European Court of Justice in Ozgur Gundem v. Turkey of 16 March 2000). – https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/#{%22fulltext%22:[%22Ozgur%20Gundem%20v.%20turkey%22],%22documentcollectionid2%22:[%22GRANDCHAMBER%22,%22CHAMBER%22],%22itemid%22:[%22001-58508%22]}

In the judgment in the case of Oberschlick v. Austria on 23 May 1991, the European Court recalled “that, subject to the requirements of Article 10 para. 2 of the Convention, freedom of expression covers not only ‘information’ or ‘ideas’ which are regarded as favorable or regarded as harmless or neutral, but also those which offend, shock or cause alarm”.

As you can see, it is not for the first time that the law enforcement and judicial bodies violated the Right to Freedom of Expression. This time it was in relation to Mr. Ibrahimov. The illegitimate arrest also violated the fundamental Right in any democratic society – the Right to Freedom guaranteed by Article 28 of the Constitution of Azerbaijan, as well as Article 5(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights.