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Launch of trials of Azerbaijani political prisoners

Trials of Azerbaijani human rights activists have been launched last week in Azerbaijan. Rasul Jafarov and Intigam Aliyev were detained in the summer of 2014. Their politically-motivated arrest was a part of the system of repression that had been long used by the regime of Ilham Aliyev against the Azerbaijani civil society.

Rasul Jafarov, organiser of the “Sing for Democracy” campaign launched during the Eurovision Song Contest hosted in Baku in 2012, was accused of misappropriation of funds, tax avoidance, illegal business activity and falsification. He is facing a sentence of up to 12 years of imprisonment. The first hearing in the proceedings against the activist took place on Thursday, 15 January 2015.

Advocates of Mr Jafarov filed a number of evidentiary motions and requested, inter alia, that financial reports of the defendant be appended to the case files. The court dismissed the majority of defence submissions, stating that it would issue a decision regarding the financial reports during the next hearing, scheduled for 27 January.

The trial of Intigam Aliyev, a lawyer representing applicants before the ECtHR, was to start last week. The lawyer was accused of misappropriation of funds, tax avoidance and carrying out an illegal business activity. The hearing in this case was adjourned as an alleged victim of the supposedly committed abuses had failed to appear.

The defendants were escorted to the court in handcuffs. During the course of the hearing they remained in metal cages. It is a practise used in some countries of the former Soviet Union such as Georgia or Russia. The ECtHR held that this practice was an inhumane and degrading treatment of defendants.

“We asked the Polish Ambassador in Baku to consider the possibility of appointing Polish diplomats who would observe the trial”, says Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska, HFHR’s lawyer. “We believe that it would be a clear signal that Poland supports the democratic values for which Poles had been long fighting for”, adds Ms Bychawska-Siniarska.

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