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Arrest of human rights activists in Azerbaijan

In Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, the police arrested on 26 January 2013 around 40 demonstrators who protested against the rule of President Ilham Alijew and expressed support for residents of the city of Ismayilli, whose earlier protests had been brutally dispersed.

Police forces blocked access to one of the Baku’s squares, a usual venue for opposition protests, forcing demonstrators to look for another location. Soon afterwards demonstrators were arrested. Around 100 people gathered to voice their discontent. Some of them chanted: “Freedom!”.

Two days earlier protests were held by residents of the small city Ismayilli, located nearly 200 kilometres northwest of Baku. They demanded the regional governor to resign. The police used tear gas and rubber bullets. The demonstrators in Baku wanted to show support for the suppressed participants of the Ismayilli’s unrest.

Some prominent human rights activists were detained during the Baku rally, including Malahat Nasibova, a Rafto Award Winner, Intigam Aliyev, a lawyer defending cases before, among other things, the European Court of Human Rights, Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist and Fritt Ord Foundation and ZEIT Foundation award winner and Emin Milli, an opposition blogger. Arrests were also made of many opposition activists.

After a couple of hours in custody ten demonstrators were released without sanction. Some of them were transported in the vicinity of Baku and left there. Fines were imposed on other demonstrators for taking part in an unsanctioned demonstration.

The Human Rights House Foundation has issued an appeal in this case. It has pointed to the fact that the arrest of prominent human rights activists was associated with their participation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which took place on 21-25 January. The Parliamentary Assembly was supposed to adopt a resolution containing a list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan and calling for their release. Malahat Nasibova was present at the Assembly and held a series of meetings with its members. Emin Milli and Khadija Ismayilova reported on the developments in Strasburg. Intigam Alieyev was involved in drafting documents which were handed out to PACE members. By way of reminder, PACE did not adopt the resolution on political prisoners in Azerbaijan. A majority of Polish PACE members voted against its adoption.

Well-known Azerbaijani blogger Emin Milli remains in custody as he was sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention.

On Friday, 1 February, the HFHR held a protest before the Azerbaijani Embassy in Warsaw against the arrest of Emin Milli and other human rights activists.

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