The activist of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan Pasha Umudov was accused of drug trafficking
Analysis of violation of law during Pasha Umudov’s judicial proceedings
Baku City Narimanov District Court
Case №4 (005)-953/2019
October 16, 2019
Judge: Samir Mammadov
Defendant: Pasha Umudov
Defender: Ramiz Mirzoyev
Public Prosecutor: Shohrat Huseynov (investigator of the Main Department for Combating Organized Crime of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan).
A member of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), Pasha Umudov, has been subject to administrative detentions on several occasions for his political activities (he is the Chairman of the Baku Nizami district party branch) and for being close to the PFPA Chairman of the Ali Kerimli (he was volunteering as his driver).Thus, he was arrested on 31 March 2019 immediately before the rally, which was scheduled for 06 April 2019 by the National Council of Democratic Forces (the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan is a member of the National Council). Pasha Umudov, as well as other members of the PFPA Ramid Nagiyev, Nijat Nizamov, and Yalchin Abdullayev were found guilty for committing administrative offences under the Article 535.1. of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Azerbaijan Republic (disobedience to the legal demands of the police officer). Pasha Umudov was sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest.
On the eve of another National Council rally scheduled on 19 October 2019, about 60 members of the PFPA including the Deputy Chairman of the PFPA Seymur Hazi were arrested on administrative charges. Seymur Hazi who had previously been a political prisoner, was arrested for 15 days); members of the Board of the party Fuad Qahramanly, also a former political prisoner, was arrested for 30 days, and Ilham Huseyn was arrested for 60 days. Criminal proceedings were initiated against three activists of the PFPA, including P. Umudov.
Pasha Umudov was arrested by unknown individuals in civilian clothes on 15 October 2019. After his detention, P. Umudov was brought to the Main Department for Combating Organized Crime of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan. It is believed that Pasha Umudov was subjected to torture and humiliation.
On October 16, 2019, the Baku Narimanov District Court issued a decision to apply preventive measures against Pasha Umudov in the form of imprisonment for 3 months based on charges under the Article 234.2 (Illegal purchase or storage with a view of selling, manufacturing, processing, transportation, transfer or selling of narcotics or psychotropic substances) of the Criminal Code of the Azerbaijan Republic (CC AR).
However, Pasha Umudov’s family was not either informed about the accusation made against him, or about the judicial process. A state lawyer was appointed to assist P. Umudov at the trial but even he did not inform Umudov’s relatives about the trial. For 4 days Pasha’s relatives did not have any information. Only on 19 October, the accusation and the court verdict against P. Umudov became known.
On 19 October 2019, the National Council of Democratic Forces held an unauthorized rally near the “28 May” subway station in central Baku. The PFPA was the organising action body; many party activists and the PFPA chairman, Ali Kerimli, have been detained. By nightfall Kerimli was released. Once released, Kerimli aired online, informing the audience about the beatings and brutality of his detention. He had suffered from numerous injuries and 6 stitches on his head wound. The authorities denied the use of torture. They attributed Kerimli’s injuries to his resisting during the detention when he hit his head on a bus.
On 24 October 2019, a few TV channels (Real TV, Lider TV, and some others) broadcast information concerning Pasha Umudov’s “confessions”. These videos showed Pasha Umudov who said that he had been selling and using drugs for 5 years. Also, it was shown the testimonies of Museyib Bayramov, Rauf Quliyev and Mais Mammadov, the Azerbaijani citizens, who said that they had bought drugs from Pasha Umudov. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMd6ip31YLM
It should be pointed out that Umudov’s case investigation has not been concluded. And the question emerges, “How did this video have ended up in the media, and why has it been done?”
Commentary by an expert lawyer:
The Baku Narimanov District Court verdict from 16 October 2019 is illegal and unjustified. As mentioned above, Pasha Umudov was detained by unknown individuals on 15 October 2019, four days prior the rally scheduled in downtown Baku on 19 October 2019. There was no information about him for several days. The party’s fellow members, social media and the press reported about disappearance of the PFPA activist. Only on 19 October, relatives found out that Umudov was detained by the police and brought to the Main Department for Combating Organized Crime of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan, and criminal charges were brought against him. Thus, a citizen of Azerbaijan, Pasha Umudov, was actually kidnapped by individuals in a civilian clothes on 15 October 2019. National and International law norms were violated with regard to Pasha Umudov.
According to the Article 28 of Constitution of Azerbaijan Republic,
- Everyone has the right for freedom.
- Right for freedom might be restricted only as specified by law, by way of detention, arrest or imprisonment.
Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person, which is also guaranteed by international laws. According to the Article 5 Paragraph 1 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:
- c) the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;
“Individual liberty must be protected by the law; deprivation of liberty prior to trial is an obvious violation. National judicial authorities should consider all circumstances in order to establish the existence of a public interest that justifies exceptions to the basic norm of respect for individual liberty. Even though the grounds for lawful deprivation of liberty as specified by national authorities might be appropriate and sufficient, it should be ensured, inter alia, that the relevant national authorities have exercised the utmost care during the proceedings.” (“Cases of the European Court of Human Rights”, Michele Salvia, 2004)
According to the Article 155.1 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Azerbaijan Republic (CPC AR), restrictive measures may be applied by the relevant preliminary investigator, investigator, and prosecutor in charge of the procedural aspects of the investigation or court when the material in the prosecution file gives sufficient grounds to suppose that the accused will resort a new offences.
The court, in its arrest warrant, stated a number of criteria according to which the strictest preventive measure in the form of detention had been chosen:
- the sanction of the incriminated article stipulates a penalty of liberty deprivation for more
than 2 years;
- the possibility of concealing from the authorities conducting criminal proceedings;
- the likelihood of interference in the normal course of the investigation;
- the probability of committing new offences under criminal law;
- evading the call of the investigating authority.
In all of these criteria above, the court had to justify every doubtful situation. If an arrest warrant was chosen, no one could invoke mere supposition. The investigating authority should have precise proofs and grounds that the court would have to apply exactly this preventive measure against the accused. Moreover, the court did not indicate in its order the reasons why the defendant could not be subjected to a preventive measure that would not involve his arrest. This point is of great importance for the justification of the preventive measure legality.
The decision of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Azerbaijan Republic entitled “On the practice of legislation implementation by the courts during the consideration of submissions related to the choice of preventive measure in the form of arrest against the accused persons” of November 3, 2009, said, «The courts must draw close attention to the timely and qualitative implementation of the Article 28 of the Azerbaijan Republic Constitution, the Articles 5 and 6 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the criminal procedure legislation, as well as the practice of the European Court of Human Rights when considering the implementation of the procedural coercive measures against the accused persons. Avoid a formal approach to the consideration of submissions, bearing in mind that the measure of detention is the most serious measure that limits the rights of the arrested person. To inform the courts that, in accordance with the precedents of the European Court of Human Rights, the use of the measure of detention in the form of arrest is generally permitted if the public interest overrides the individual’s right to liberty, i.e. if the individual’s liberty causes negative emotions in society and is still endangering the public”.
As shown, there have been 10 years since the adoption of this resolution by the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Azerbaijan Republic. However, it still exists on paper only and has not been observed by the courts, moreover, it is being seriously violated.
The Article 154 of the CPC AR states that the courts should examine the applicability of the measure of detention when imposing a preventive measure in the form of arrest. Also, as indicated in the Article 447.5 of the CPC AR, in connection with the compulsory conduct of an investigative procedure or the application of a coercive procedural measure, the judge shall have the right to hear statements, to summon for questioning persons who confirm or deny the circumstances indicated in the application and to request the documents and material evidence required to verify the grounds for the application. However, the court has not only failed to use such a provision but has neglected it.
There are basic principles of criminal proceedings listed in the Article 9 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Azerbaijan Republic (CPC AR). This is to establish rules as a basis for criminal prosecution (Article 9.1.1); to ensure a defence against restrictions on human and civil rights and liberties (Article 9.1.2) and to determine the legality and grounds of every criminal prosecution Article 9.1.3).
According to the Article 153.2 of the CPC AR, to secure the rights of the detainee, the officials of the prosecuting authority and those in charge of the temporary detention facility shall:
153.2.1. inform the detainee immediately after detaining him of the grounds for detention, and explain to him his right not to testify against himself and his close relatives as well as his right to the assistance of defence counsel;
153.2.4. secure the right of the person to inform others of his detention immediately after detention (the authority in charge of the temporary detention facility, on his own initiative, shall inform the family members of any detainees who are elderly, under age or unable to do so themselves because of their mental state).
The listed above procedural rights have not been granted to Pasha Umudov. His family did not know about his whereabouts until 19 October 2019.
A very important point in this case is the demonstration of a video recording on local TV channels, in which Pasha Umudov testifies against himself with so-called “confessions”. The investigation has not been over and the video recording of the accuser’s interrogation is in fact illegal.
This was done in order to damage the reputation of the PFPA. Pasha Umudov being a member of the PFPA spoke of his political affiliation in his testimony. That video was shown on purpose at 9 p.m. (prime-time) on 24 October 2019 (right after the rally on 19 October 2019, when the party chairman Ali Kerimli was detained and tortured).
The demonstration of this video recording violated the principle of presumption of innocence, which is stipulated in the Article 63 of the Constitution of the Azerbaijan Republic, in the Article 21 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Azerbaijan Republic, and in the Article 6 (2) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.