They are deported from Germany and arrested in Azerbaijan


Punkhan Karimli

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

Baku Grave Crimes Court

Case №1(101)-1092/2022

27 July 2022

Presiding judge: Samir Aliyev

Judges: Javid Huseynov, Eldar Ismayilov

Defendant: Punkhan Karimli

Defender: Javad Javadov

Public Prosecutor: Orkhan Mehdiyev, a prosecutor of the Department of Public Prosecution Support in the Serious Crimes Courts of the Department of Public Prosecution Support within the General Prosecutor’s Office of Azerbaijan Republic

In November 2021, Punkhan Karimli, a member of the opposition Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), was deported from Germany. On 25 January 2022, he was detained by the Anti-Drug Department officers affiliated with the Azerbaijani Ministry of the Interior. Karimli was charged with crimes under the Articles 234.4.1 (Illegal manufacturing, purchase, storage, transportation, transfer or selling of narcotics, psychotropic substances committed on preliminary arrangement by group of persons or organized group) and 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 (AR Criminal Code).

According to the investigation, on 25 January 2022, the officers of the Anti-Drug Department of the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry conducted a raid, during which Punkhan Karimli was detained. A total of 7.510 grams of heroin and 2.512 grams of the psychotropic substance methamphetamine were discovered in his possession. P. Karimli was arrested and brought to the Baku Narimanov district police department.

The defendant, Punkhan Karimli, has been interrogated in the court and testified that he was born in Baku in 1989. He obtained a university degree at the Slavic State University and at the same time he was engaged in socio-political activities. In 2012, he was involved in public and political work as a member of the “Youth Club”, a non-governmental organisation. Since 2016, he has belonged to the PFPA. In October 2018, he left to Germany to become a political immigrant. For the period of 3 years, while living in Augsburg, Germany, he was constantly involved in political activities, participated in rallies against the dictatorial regime in Azerbaijan and openly expressed his negative views against Ilham Aliyev’s government on social media.

On 25 November 2021, he was deported from Germany to Azerbaijan. Following his deportation, two months later, he went along with his father to the Narimanov district. His father headed to the Oil Company and he went to the Tax Department. Having finished his errand, he walked out of the Department and distanced about 10-15 metres away as he was suddenly attacked by four unknown men, physically assaulted, handcuffed and put into the car. The entire incident was captured on a video camera set up in the area. He did not know what was going on. At first the men told him that his name was Ali. When Karimli denied it and told them that his name was not Ali but Punkhan, they replied “you have a gun”. Then Elman Guliyev, who was in the front seat of the car said, “Yesterday in the area of Khalglar Dostlugu metro station, you were molesting a woman, that’s why we detained you.” P. Karimli demanded to be told the real reason for such a treatment, on which E. Guliyev said, “Your name is Punkhan, you know what you are detained for”. Then the Major, Surkhay Aliyev, said, “You oppose the State and President and therefore you are arrested”. Karimli’s hands were handcuffed. He was wearing a hooded jacket. Surkhay Aliyev put the hood over his head and started strangling him.

He was then brought to the Baku Narimanov District Police Department in Baku. But while still in the car, the men who arrested Karimli planted two packages of drug in his pocket. It has been carried out a personal search in the presence of a lawyer, during which these two drug packages were found in the pocket of his jacket. Elman Guliyev said that because of his statements against the State and President, he would be arrested. When the police officers asked him to sign a testimony, he refused to do it. At that moment, they closed the door, shut the windows and blinds of the office. Three other unidentified men came in and started pressuring him psychologically. P. Karimli had to sign the testimony they required. It was captured on a video camera. Karimli also testified that upon his arrival from Germany he was not engaged in any political or social activities but only took care of his personal matters.

In the course of the trial, Elman Guliyev, an officer of the Interior Ministry’s Anti-Drug Department, was questioned as a witness testifying that he had received an operational information on Punkhan Karimli on January 25 2022. In this regard, they formed a special operational group, which consisted of him and other officers. On 25 January 2022, at about 12:30 p.m., they detained Punkhan Karimli in the Baku Narimanov district. Having introduced themselves, they invited Mr Karimli to follow them to the police station. The latter did not object and went along with them. The police conducted a body search and found heroin and methamphetamine in the specified quantities on Mr. Karimli. It was videotaped. When questioned, Punkhan Karimli testified that he had purchased the drugs for personal purposes in the Khatai district of Baku.

In the course of the trial, Roman Hasanov and Rovshan Mammadaliyev, two police officers were also questioned as witnesses who confirmed Elman Guliyev’s testimony.

The forensic narcological examination conducted on 3 February 2022, revealed that Punkhan Karimli had an opioid and psychostimulant addiction syndrome. According to the conclusion of the forensic narcological examination, the accused must undergo a compulsory treatment for drug addiction.

The forensic psychiatric examination dated 5 February 2022, concluded that Punkhan Karimli had not suffered from any mental illness or psychological disorder at the time of the crime.

There is a decree of 15 March 2022, in the case file not to initiate criminal prosecution regarding the torture of Punkhan Karimli.

On 27 July 2022, the Baku Court on Serious Crimes issued a verdict against Punkhan Karimli. He was found guilty on the charges and sentenced to 6 years imprisonment to be served in a penal colony of general regime. The verdict also states that in accordance with the Article 93-1.1 of the Azerbaijani Criminal Code, Karimli should be subjected to compulsory medical treatment measures aimed at treating his drug addiction. Mr. Karimli should also be registered in a narcological dispensary at his place of residence.


Commentary by expert lawyer:

The court verdict is unlawful and unjustified. Punkhan Karimli was accused of committing a crime under the Article 234.4.1 of the Criminal Code. Within this Article, as an aggravating factor of the crime is whether it had been committed by a group of individuals upon prior conspiracy or by an organisation. However, neither the indictment nor the verdict specify who belonged to such a group, how the group members communicated with each other, how the crime was planned, whether there were any written arrangements between the group members, how responsibilities were distributed between them, and many other issues. There is not a single word, not a single proof that the crime was entirely committed by an organized criminal group. None of this has been specified in the verdict. The verdict only states that Karimli purchased the drugs directly from a person whose identity had not been identified by the investigation. It should be noted that Karimli had been living in Germany for three years. Furthermore, the verdict does not indicate what type of criminal group was involved in the crime.

According to the Constitutional Court Decree On Interpretation of the Concept  Organized Group in the Criminal Code of the Azerbaijan Republic dated 20 April 1999, the concepts of “group of individuals”, “group of people upon pre-conspiracy” and “organized group” are clearly differentiated in terms of their attributes. These elements also differ in terms of the social threat; one group may be more dangerous than the other.  Согласно Постановлению, группа лиц по предварительному сговору либо организованная группа с целью совершения преступлений объединяет между собой сложную форму двух или более лиц. Здесь обязательным отличительным признаком является предварительный сговор. According to the Decree, a group of people upon pre-conspiracy or an organized group with the purpose of committing crimes are similar by the fact that both groups include at least two or more individuals. The essential distinguishing feature here is prior conspiracy. In such criminal groups consensual agreement to commit an offence is acquired prior to the commission of the offence. There must be a certain time period between the adoption of such a decision to commit a crime and its execution. Moreover, within an organized criminal group there must be a clear allocation of responsibilities, and the positions taken as by the leader and other members. This Decree states that the courts must clearly distinguish between all three concepts, as well as take into account the following attributes: the choice of an organiser and leader of a criminal group, the strict observance of order, the integrity of the criminal intentions, the elaboration of an offence plan and its serious preparation, the assignment for each group member, the provisional determination of the method to commit the crime, the coordination of actions according to the elaborated plan, and the distribution of acquired profit in accordance with the status in the group.

According to the Constitutional Court’s judgment, the courts bear a strong obligation to examine and legally assess charges involving an aggravated offence committed by a group of people upon pre-conspiracy or by a gang. In the commented case there is nothing inherent in a group of conspirators or an organized group.

Furthermore, as it is indicated above, neither the investigative body nor the court differentiated between the types of organized crime. In the verdict, it was only the defendant’s name No any other member of the so-called criminal group was identified by the investigation. Yet, despite all this, the court retained this aggravating circumstance in P. Karimli’s accusation, even though the investigation did not provide any evidence of it.

We should also pay attention to the dates of Karimli’s deportation from Germany and his detention. Thus, he was deported on 25 November 2021, and detained on 25 January 2022. Two months have apparently elapsed since his deportation. A logical question then arises: within such a short period of time, how was Karimli able to establish contacts with other members of the criminal group, plan and commit the crime, assign roles and other actions? Neither the investigation nor the court has provided any kind of explanation.

This is a gross violation of the norms of substantive law. The domestic courts often make such a breach by failing to examine all the arguments and merits of the defence. As a rule, the investigation bodies file such charges and the courts, without having fully, objectively and comprehensively considered the cases, impose unjustified sentences that lead to the long terms of imprisonment.

In the course of the trial, P. Karimli’s lawyer submitted a petition to the court. He asked the court to summon Karimli’s father, who was a first-hand eyewitness of his son’s arrest. In the motion, the defence also asked for an inspection of the CCTV cameras installed in the area where Karimli was detained. That motion was made as in the course of pre-trial investigation as in the court. However, the State prosecutor objected to the motion, and the judge left the defence lawyer’s motion without consideration.

It is also odd that, according to the police officers, the body search was not carried out during P. Karimli’s detention but instead took place at the Police department. Logically, if the police officers had been aware that P. Karimli had drugs in his possession, they should have conducted an on-the-spot inspection supported by a court order.

As for the defence motions, according to the Article 121.2 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Azerbaijan Republic, the ruling adopted on the motion or request should be motivated and contain an assessment of the applicant’s arguments. The motions and requests that are aimed at comprehensive, detailed and objective clarification of all the circumstances pertaining to the criminal prosecution within the framework of due process of law and at restoring the violated rights and legitimate interests of the parties involved in the criminal proceedings and other persons involved in the criminal proceedings cannot be rejected.

The Court dismissed the essential motions that would have contributed to the disclosure of truth and further to the acquittal verdict. In fact, the inspection of the CCTV cameras should have been of interest to the investigation authority (to prove the guilt of the accused), but the denial of the motion made it clear that the detention had taken place beyond the framework of the law. The Court dismissed the essential motions that would have contributed to the disclosure of truth and further to the acquittal verdict. In fact, the inspection of the CCTV cameras should have been of interest to the investigation authority (to prove the guilt of the accused), but the denial of the motion made it clear that the detention had taken place beyond the framework of the law.

Another very important point in the conduct of a fair trial is the non-admission of those wishing to attend the trial, including close relatives of the accused, into the courtroom. In this case, the Court did not order the trial to be held behind closed doors, which meant that the case had to be heard in public.

The Principle of Publicity is protected by the Article 27 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Azerbaijan Republic as well as the Article 6 (1) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Accordance to this Article,

In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.

The court proceeding transparency, in both criminal and civil cases, is one of the essential guarantees of the justice system’s fairness. It protects defendants from behind-the-scenes justice that avoids public scrutiny and constitutes one of the means to maintain the confidence and trust of the court.

The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Goch v. Poland of 16 July 2002 states:

According to the practice established by the Court, in proceedings before a court of first instance only, the right of everyone to have his case heard in public, as understood under Article 6 § 1, comprises the right to a ‘court hearing’ unless exceptional circumstances make it impossible not to have one. –{%22fulltext%22:[%22\%22CASE%20OF%20GOC%20v.%20POLAND\%22%22],%22documentcollectionid2%22:[%22GRANDCHAMBER%22,%22CHAMBER%22],%22itemid%22:[%22001-60428%22]}

All the above-mentioned violations of the Norms of Substantive and Procedural Laws show a biased attitude of the investigation and court towards the accused, and once again prove the fact that the arrests of political emigrants expelled from Germany and subsequently arrested in Azerbaijan (there are five of them at the moment) have a political motive and have absolutely nothing in common with the law.