04 February

Penitentiary Service of Azerbaijan

A Muslim Unity Movement (MUM) activist Abbas Huseynov’s mother, Rahima Huseynova told the Caucasus Knot correspondent that Abbas called her and said that he had started a hunger strike on 03 February as a sign of protest against torture and pressure and the MUM head Tale Bagirzade had been starving since 31 January. She pointed out that “as soon as Abbas informed her about the hunger strike, the wardens grabbed the receiver and their conversation was interrupted. Tale Bagirzade’s wife Leyla Ismayilzade confirmed the fact of the hunger strike and stated that she applied to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Baku on 04 February. The Public Relations Department of the Penitentiary Service refrained from making comments.

07 February

The Press Service of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan (IPA) has circulated a statement about the ongoing persecution and torture of the MUM leader Tale Bagirzade and an activist Abbas Huseynov. It is stated that none of the convicted believer’ appeals or complaints has been considered. Moreover, T. Bagirzade was deprived of the right to take a bath or talk over the phone as a punishment for his hunger strike. In response, T. Bagirzade and A. Huseynov declare that if tortures and repression against them do not stop, they will start an indefinite hunger strike. IPA discredited the policy of repression against believers and called up the Penitentiary Service to stop this policy. 

11 February

According to the Azadliq newspaper, T. Bagirzade’s hunger strike has been going on for 11 days and A. Huseynov’s hunger strike last for 8 days. In the meantime, their relatives do not have a permission  to visit or call them, and they are not provided with any information concerning Bagirzade’s and Huseynov’s condition. The accused believers’ lawyers are also prohibited to communicate with their accused clients. T. Bagirzade’s lawyer, Bahruz Bayramov said that on February 8  he officially addressed to the Gobustan prison administration with a request to meet with his client. He got an answer that T. Bagirzade allegedly refused to meet with him; the reasons for such a strange reaction was not given. In turn, the management of the Penitentiary Service denied the widespread reports of torture and pressure in detention centres, as well as the fact of Bedirzade’s and Huseynov’s hunger strike.

14 February

According to the Azadliq newspaper, once again the Penitentiary Service management denied the fact of a hunger strike by believers in Gobustan prison. Moreover, the Head of the Penitentiary Service’s press service, Mehman Sadigov, said that “the hunger strike is not properly carried out. First, an inmate should apply in writing to the Head of the prison explaining the reasons of strike then it would be studied by the prison administration. And only after that a hunger strike is allowed; an inmate is kept in solitary confinement and under a doctor supervision”. Yet again, Tale Bagirzade’s wife publicly stated that the MUM leader has been already going on the 14th day of hunger strike. Then Leila Ismayilzade said that on 12 February, she managed to get a meeting with the Gobustan prison director, Aftandil Agayev, who reassured her that Tale Bagirzade hadn’t not been starving, and he allegedly refused to call his family. “But I said, – continued Leila, that neither my relatives, nor I have any news from him for 15 days. And I got my husband brought to the director’s office while I was there. In the warden’s presence, Tale Bagirzade openly stated that it was a lie and he was not allowed to make calls. And then he addressed to the warden, “If my hands are bleeding from the handcuffs and I am about to develop gangrene. If it is not your fault whose fault is that?” Then, in the presence of his wife and Agayev, he confirmed that he had started a hunger strike in protest against torture and persecution of religious prisoners. His wife asked him again, “Did you really start a hunger strike?”, on which Tale Bagirzade replied “I am starving for the 12th day.” Their meeting in the director’s office lasted no more than 15 minutes.

15 February

In response to the information provided by Leyla Ismayilzade about her husband Tale Bagirzade’s hunger strike in the Azerbaijani media, the Penitentiary Service disseminated a statement, which denied the fact of his hunger strike. It was stated that on 12 February, 2019 Tale’s father, Kamil Bagirov, and wife, Leyla Ismayilzade, had an appointment with Aftandil Agayev, the Head of the Gobustan prison, who explained to them that no one either violated the law or committed any other illegal acts against Bagirzade. Tale refused to meet or talk to his relatives and lawyer despite the fact that there were all favorable conditions. Then it is said “A meeting with Bagirzade’s relatives was organized in one of the prison offices. However, when Bagirzade entered the room he immediately expressed his disagreement to see with his relatives and rudely demanded them to leave. When Tale was asked by the prison official about the reasons to cancel a meeting with his lawyer and relatives and his rejection to speak to them over the phone, Bagirzadeh stated that he wanted public to talk about him to stay on the agenda news, and this was his only chance. Then he said to his relatives, “Go and tell everyone I’m on a hunger strike. And in conclusion, the Penitentiary Service once again pointed out that Tale Bagirzade never filed a complaint about illegal actions against him, either he didn’t mention his hunger strike.

16 February

Co-chairmen of the Committee to Protect the Rights of Believers Rovshan Ahmedli and Eldaniz Quliyev visited Gobustan prison. They had an opportunity to meet with the MUM leader Tale Bagirzade, also with an activist of the organization Jabbar Jabbarov as well as with the head of the IPA Movsum Samadov. According to the Turan agency report, each prisoner has had a separate meeting in a presence of their lawyers in a visiting room. Tale Bagirzade has taken into account the request of the co-chairmen of the Committee, as well as the leadership of the National Council of Democratic Forces and decided to end a 16-day hunger strike against the violation of the rights of convicted believers.

The issue of removing restrictions on the convicted believers’ telephone conversations was also positively resolved. Bagirzadeh and Jabbarov expressed their desire to be held in the same cell but this request was denied. The co-chairmen of the Committee also requested permission to meet with Abbas Huseynov, a convicted MUM activist but permission was not issued due to Abbas Huseynov sickness. It was said that he had been kept in the medical ward of the Penitentiary Service.

22 February

Bakhtiyar Baghirov, the MUM activist, appealed at the Baku Court of Appeal where his complaint was considered. Although the police detained him on 06 February, they did not provided any information either to his family or lawyer for five days. And only on 11 February, they decided to inform his relatives (though his detention could be considered as a kidnapping), and at the same time they drew up a report  concerning Bagirov’s detention. The same day the Narimanov District Court of Baku sentenced him to 15 days imprisonment under the Article 510.1 (petty hooliganism) of the Code of Administrative Offences of Azerbaijan Republic. During the trial, the lawyer raised the issue concerning his client where about for the last five days. In his speech, B. Bagirov said that all this time he was kept in the Main Department for Combating Organized Crime of Baku. The law enforcement officers immediately reacted on the question stating that he was detained for his publications on social networks about the torture of the MUM leader Tale Bagirzade and other members of the organization, in particular, Abbas Huseynov and Jabbar Jabbarov. That’s why all these “I was beaten by 5-6 people”, said Bagirov. But Judge Hasan Ahmadov ignored the statement of torture and rejected the complaint.

23 February

The trial proceedings against six people arrested in connection with the July 2018 Ganja events namely Elvin Allahverdiyev, Elvin Nazarov, Renat Mammadov, Vugar Khudiyev, Elman Rustamov and Neymat Heydarly began in the Ganja Court on Grave Crimes, under the chairmanship of the Judge Khagani Samadov. All the accused were charged under the Article 220.1 (riots) of the Criminal Code (CC) of Azerbaijan. Also the accused Elman Rustamov and Neymat Heydarly were charged with committing crimes under the Article 315.2 (use of violence dangerous to life or health against a representative of the authority performing his official duties) of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan Republic. All the defendants did not have financial means for hiring lawyers and were therefore assigned the state lawyers. Whereas the latter prefer to remain silent or agree with the judge and prosecutor’s verdicts at trials. Moreover, the lawyers did not file a complaint that all the accused had been handcuffed even during the hearing in the court hall! When a journalist who were at the court asked one of the lawyers about this violation, a lawyer answered as he were a prosecutor, “If you take the handcuffs off, they will do something and then who will be responsible for it?”

The accused Elvin Nazarov was heard the very same day. Being a resident of Mingachevir, he had brought food for his arrested friend to the Kyapaz police department in Ganja on 11 July 2018. But there he was suddenly detained, his phone was taken away and he was not allowed to inform his relatives about the incident. He was brutally beaten at the police station. During the trial Nazarov shared the following “At first, I was handcuffed and blindfolded so that I wouldn’t fight back and see the people who had been beating me. They wanted to cover my mouth with a piece of scotch but I said I could breathe only through my mouth, so I could suffocate. I promised not to cry, be silent, endure everything, but asked to keep my mouth opened”.

He told that they had beaten up his legs for a long time, then they beat him with truncheons on his kidneys and lungs until he lost his consciousness. “When I fainted, they poured water on me and as soon as I was conscious they restarted beating me again”, it is another Nazarov’s testimony in the court about the tortures in Kyapaz and then in Nizami department of Ganja police. Time to time some other methods were also used; he was tied up and suspended to the ceiling then fell on the concrete floor. Then two policemen held his head firmly whereas the third one was sadistically pulling out his hair. Then they hit him severely and painfully so that his eardrums burst out. They often used thick books hitting on his ears. These beatings made him unable to sit, his legs got swollen, and he couldn’t move around on his own for a long time.

Surviving 9 days of brutal torture, on 20 July 2018, Nazarov was convicted for 4 months imprisonment and then the court took decision to transfer Elvin to the detention center No. 1 in Kyurdakhani settlement. The next trial session is scheduled for the 28th of February