Once again the court has violated the right to liberty and personal security of another Azerbaijani citizen


Elbayi Karimli

Analysis of violation of law during Elbayi Karimli’s judicial proceedings

Baku City Grave Crimes Court

Case № 1(101)-1248/2024

2 April 2024

Presiding judge: Elnur Nuriyev

Defendant: Elbayi Karimli

Defender: Nemat Karimli  

The State Prosecutor: a Prosecutor, Tural Yaqubov, from the State Prosecution Defence Division at the Courts of Serious Crime within the Department for Protection of State Prosecution at the Azerbaijan Republic General Prosecutor’s Office

Elbayi Karimli, born in 2001, a member of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFAP), was detained on 18 August 2023. Yet, the party members managed to obtain the information on his arrest only two months later.

  1. Karimli was detained in Baku while he was drawing graffiti on the monument of ex-president, Heydar Aliyev, and shooting it on video. He was charged with committing an offence under the Article 234.4.3 (Illegal manufacturing, purchase, storage, transportation, transfer or selling of narcotics, psychotropic substances committed in large amount) of the Criminal Code of the Azerbaijan Republic.

The very same day, the Baku City Nasimi District Court issued a preventive measure in the form of detention against E. Karimli, that measure was subsequently extended.

According to the investigation, E. Karimli was detained by the police officers and brought to the 22nd police station of the Nasimi District Police Department in the course of operational-search measures. The event took place on 18 August 2023. There, during a personal examination, a homemade heroin drug weighing 30.135 grams has been found in Karimli’s possession.

In the course of trial, the detainee, E.Karimli, did not plead guilty to the charges and testified that he had never either used  or sold drugs. He further said that on 18 August 2023, in Baku, he wrote with white spray the word ‘Stalin’ on the pedestal of Heydar Aliyev, which is located close to the National Bank. As soon as he finished two policemen approached, detained, and put him into a post-patrol car. He was brought to the 22nd police station of the Baku City Nasimi district. There, he was left in a room on the ground floor where there were no any other cells. When a group of policemen entered the room they first questioned him, and then threw him down on the floor and started kicking him in the stomach. After that they put the drugs in front of him and demanded to choose any one. When E. Karimli refused to do it, they began to threaten him. The officers explained that it would be better to choose one drug in order to mitigate the punishment. They also said that if he did not do it, he would be charged with espionage. Then he was given a glass of juice, which had a bitter taste, then he was insisted to drink a Coca-Cola. Karimli felt sick and dizzy. Finally, he agreed to obey. The police officers told him that in order to do it they seized 1 kilogramme of drugs at the house of Qiyas Ibrahim.

Afterwards, an appointed lawyer was introduced to E. Karimli. Thereafter, Karimli, providing his «confession» was filmed on a video camera. But when he found out that he would face a sentence for a period from 5 to 12 years, he realized that he had been tricked. Karimli testified that the police officers had inhumanely treated him; he had been subjected to beatings and torture. There were injuries on his body. The officers pushed him on the floor, twisted his hands, and his legs were forced against his lungs.

Questioned as a witness, Vusal Qasimov, an operative of the 22nd police department, testified that on 18 August 2023, he got an information that E. Karimli had illegally acquired some drugs that he had been carrying around. A group of policemen, including an operative commissioner Muhammad Quliyev was set up in order to check the information. As soon as they saw E. Karimli, they approached him, introduced themselves, and then asked him to follow them to the police station. E. Karimli did not demonstrate any resistance and went with them. The case was assigned to the senior interrogator Emil Qaralov, who prosecuted E. Karimli as a suspect and appointed him a lawyer. While conducting a personal search, the drugs were found in Karimli’s possession; on the video shown at the trial E. Karimli confessed that the drugs belonged to him.

Muhammad Quliyev, questioned as a witness before the Court, provided the same testimony as Vusal Qasimov.

On 19 August 2023, the forensic chemical examination detected that the found drugs, heroin, had been manufactured by artisanal means.

A forensic narcological examination held on 19 August 2023, discovered the substance of opioids and psychostimulants in E. Karimli’s blood, which led the detainee to drug addiction. A compulsory treatment is a must.

The forensic psychiatric examination, dated 30 November 2023, revealed that E. Karimli was not suffering from any mental illness.

The court accepted Karimli’s testimony about the inscription on the pedestal and the use of physical force by the police officers as self-defence.

The Court assumed E. Karimli’s testimony concerning the writing on the pedestal, as well as his resistance to the police officers’ use of physical force, to be in self-defense.

On 2 April 2024, the Baku City Court for Serious Crimes issued a verdict against E. Karimli: to find him guilty of committing a crime under the Article 234.4.3 of the Criminal Code of the Azerbaijan Republic and sentence him to the period of 6-year imprisonment with serving the penalty in a general regime facility.


Commentary by expert lawyer:

The court verdict is unlawful and unjustified.

In the course of trial, E. Karimli testified that he had been tortured and ill-treated in order to admit his offence. The police officers threatened him with harsher punishment, forced to accept drugs as if it were his. He also described in detail the police’s methods and inhuman treatment, as well as how the officers forced him to drink a beverage in which the drugs were presumably spiked.

The detailed description of such a treatment makes it appear that it did really take place.

In this context, it should be noted the Article 13 of the AR Criminal Procedure Code of the Azerbaijan Republic, where states:

It shall be prohibited to take decisions or allow acts during the criminal prosecution which debase the honour and dignity of the person or may threaten the life and health of the participants in the proceedings.

During a criminal prosecution nobody shall:

  • be subjected to treatment or punishment that debases human dignity;
  • be held in conditions that debase human dignity;
  • be forced to participate in carrying out procedures that debase human dignity.

The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Article 3, also prohibits torture and ill-treatment.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in its numerous judgments has repeatedly pointed out that an act of treatment is considered “inhuman” if it is deliberate, inflicted for several hours at a time and causes, if not actual physical injury, but at least intense physical and mental suffering. “Degrading treatment” is considered by the ECHR to be of such a nature as to cause fear, distress and feelings of inferiority capable of offending and humiliating victims. In order for punishment or treatment to be considered ‘inhuman’ or ‘degrading’, the suffering or humiliation related to it must, in one way or another, be more than the inevitable element of suffering or humiliation linked to a form of lawful punishment…”.

An inhuman punishment is defined as a punishment that causes suffering of a special level. In order for this punishment to fall within the scope of the article in question, it must entail some form of violence (e.g. corporal punishment).

Degrading punishment is understood to be a punishment for which a humiliation and oppression that accompany it are also of a special level (e.g. in terms of method of execution), which differs, at any rate, to the ordinary character of humiliation typical to each and every punishment. –


The judgment of the ECHR in the case of  Tekin v. Turkey dated 9 June 1998, it is stated,

«In respect of a detainee deprived of liberty, the use of physical force that was not provoked by the detainee’s personal actions is degrading to human dignity and is, as a matter of fact, an infringement upon the right enshrined in the Convention, Article 3. The Court is of opinion that the conditions under which the applicant has been detained and treatment to which an applicant has been subjected resulting in marks of wounds and bruises on his or her body fall within the scope of inhuman and degrading treatment under that Article». – https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/?i=001-58196

This judgement clearly illustrates E. Karimli’s situation, who has had injuries that occurred whilst under the custody of the investigating authorities.

The admissibility and sufficiency of evidence is an important aspect of any criminal proceedings. As proof in this case, the investigative body submitted the defendant’s testimony during the investigation and trial, the testimony of two witnesses, operative officers, a number of forensic examinations, as well as the reports provided by the investigating body.

According to the Article 124.1 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Azerbaijan Republic, reliable evidence (information, documents, other items) obtained by the court or the parties to criminal proceedings shall be considered as prosecution evidence. Such evidence:

  • shall be obtained in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Criminal Procedure, without restriction of constitutional human and civil rights and liberties or with restrictions on the grounds of a court decision (on the basis of the investigator‘s decision in the urgent cases described in this Code);
  • shall be produced in order to show whether or not the act was a criminal one, whether or not the act committed had the ingredients of an offence, whether or not the act was committed by the accused, whether or not he is guilty, and other circumstances essential to determining the charge correctly.

What was illustrative is that the Court considered the defendant’s testimony given during the investigation as true, and his testimony provided at the trial as a defensive nature. The Court, in this case, neither did substantiate its conclusion nor gave a legal assessment to the testimony of the accused before the Court, even though defendant’s testimony was that of physical and psychological abuse of authority. Moreover, the Court did not take any initiative to investigate those arguments.

The Article 126.6 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Azerbaijan Republic states, that the accused person’s confession of guilt may be accepted as grounds for the charge against him only if confirmed by the contents of all the evidence on the case.

None of the evidence provided by the investigative body was irrefutable or accurate. The totality of those evidences was insufficient in order to find E. Karimli guilty.

The following circumstances were not proven at the trial:

  • the fact of the criminal incident;
  • the accused’s connection with the incriminated incident;
  • the defendant’s guilt in committing an act provided for by the Criminal Law.

Finally, one of the most important points in a criminal case is whether the defendant committed an act that is not covered by the criminal law.

As E. Karimli stated in his testimony that he had written the word ‘Stalin’ on Heydar Aliyev’s pedestal. That very fact was the only reason for his arrest just as it was in 2016, when two young guys, Qiyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov, wrote on the same pedestal “Qul bayraminiz mubarek” (“Happy Slaves’ Holiday”). As a result, both the activists were charged with drug trafficking on a large scale and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. According to E. Karimli, Giyas Ibragimov’s name had been mentioned by a police officer.

In this regard, it is worth recalling the Article 47 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, which states,

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and speech.
  2. No one shall be forced to proclaim or to repudiate his/her thoughts and beliefs.

Freedom of expression is also regulated by the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 10(1), according to which:

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.

The Article 10, paragraph 2, stipulates a number of restrictions, as follows:

provided for by law,

  • necessary in any democratic society in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public order,
  • for the prevention of disorder or crime,
  • for the protection of health or morals,
  • protection of other’s reputation or rights,
  • prevention of the disclosure of information received confidencely,
  • ensuring the credibility and impartiality of justice.

First of all, the following questions must be answered: whether there was an interference to the right to freedom of expression and whether that interference was in line with legitimate aims. In the commented case, the answers would be: yes, there was interference; however, it was not in accordance with the legitimate aims and restrictions listed in the Convention, Article 10(2).

The precedents of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) have repeatedly indicated that “freedom of expression covers not only ‘information’ or ‘ideas’ that meet favorably or are regarded as innocuous or neutral, but also those that offend, shock or arouse concern. That is the imperative of pluralism, tolerance and liberalism, without which there is no “democratic society”.

The judgment of the ECHR in the case of Oberschlick v. Austria from 23 May 1991, states,

«The Article 10 protects not only the substance of expressed ideas and information, but also the manner in which they are transmitted». – https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/?i=001-57716

The judgment of the ECHR in the case of Ibrahimov and Mammadov v. Azerbaijan from 13 June 2020, states,

«In order for an intervention to be justified under the Article 10, it must be ‘prescribed by law’, pursue one or more of the legitimate objectives enumerated in the second paragraph of that provision, and be ‘ one that is necessary in a democratic society’, i.e. proportionate to the pursued objective».- https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/?i=001-200819

Finally, the judgment of the ECHR in the case of Ceylan v. Turkey from 8 July 1999, states,

«The Court recalls, however, that there is little scope under Article 10 § 2 of the Convention for restrictions on political speech or on debate on matters of public interest. Furthermore, the limits of permissible criticism are wider with regard to the government than in relation to a private citizen or even a politician. In a democratic system the actions or omissions of the government must be subject to the close scrutiny not only of the legislative and judicial authorities but also of public opinion. Moreover, the dominant position which the government occupies makes it necessary for it to display restraint in resorting to criminal proceedings, particularly where other means are available for replying to the unjustified attacks and criticisms of its adversaries.» – https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/?i=001-58270

Thus, the gross violation of the norms of National Law (the Constitution, Criminal and Criminal Procedural legislation) has led to a violation of the democratic society fundamental rights — the Right to Freedom and personal inviolability and and also the right to freedom of expression.