A growth of political and social tension in Azerbaijan has been observed in recent days. On Wednesday 23 January 2013 the town of Ismayilli was shaken with protests and on Saturday 26 January hundreds of people demonstrated in Azerbaijan’s capital to express solidarity with recent protests across the country. The social unrest was triggered by widespread corruption.
The Baku assembly was brutally dispersed by the police and around 40 demonstrators were arrested. Among them, the prominent blogger Emin Milli, the human rights defender and Rafto Price winner Malahat Nasibova, the human rights lawyer Intigam Alieyev, as well as the investigative journalist and Fritt Ord Foundation and ZEIT Foundation winner Khadija Ismayilova.
After a couple of hours 10 detainees were released without fines and often found themselves in remote areas around Baku city, among them Intigam Alieyev and Malahat Nasibova. Others were fined for taking part in an illegal demonstration, among them Khadija Ismayilova who received a fine of 400 manats (approx. 400 EUR). Fines were also imposed upon the detained opposition leaders: Gozal Bayramova from the Popular Front Party was fined with 2000 manats (approx. 2000 EUR), Elshan Hasanov from the Musavat Party was fined with 600 manats (approx. 600 EUR) and Aygul Panjaliyeva from the NIDA Movement was fined with 400 manats (approx. 400 EUR). Emin Milli remains in detention and an administrative fine of 15 days of depravation of liberty was imposed on him.
The detention of the leading activists should be assessed through the prism of their participation in the recent Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. On Wednesday 23 January 2013, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rejected the report comprising the list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan prepared by Christoph Strässer. Many of the Azerbaijani activists were present at the Assembly in Strasbourg or commented on the advocacy trip on blogs and in newspapers. Most of those activists have been arrested in Baku today.
Human Rights House Foundation called on 26 January 2013 on the international community to request that the Azerbaijani authorities stop punishing critical voices, including those of human rights defenders.
Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska, “Europe of Human Rights”