AZERBAIJAN / Detained May 25, 2017
UPDATE: On March 17, 2019, Gozel was freed by presidential pardon, along with 400 other prisoners in Azerbaijan, ahead of Noruz—Azerbaijan’s New Year celebration. The presidential pardoning of prisoners is common around this time, but generally does not include political prisoners.
Gozel Bayramli is the Deputy Chairman of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (APFP), an opposition political party in Azerbaijan.
On May 25, 2017, Azerbaijani border police detained Gozel as she was returning to the country from neighboring Georgia, where she received medical treatment for serious health problems. Authorities accused her of attempting to smuggle $12,000 in cash across the border. Gozel maintains that these accusations are fabricated, reporting that border police planted the $12,000 in her bag while taking her to a room for further questioning.
Gozel was subsequently taken to a pretrial detention facility while her case awaited judicial review. On January 23, 2018, Gozel was sentenced to three years in prison.
Gozel’s conviction has been widely criticized internationally. International human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have released statements condemning Gozel’s imprisonment. The US State Department additionally released a statement to TURAN, an Azerbaijani news site, condemning Gozel’s sentencing.
On March 17, 2019, Gozel was freed by presidential pardon, along with 400 other prisoners in Azerbaijan. Her release comes in the weeks leading up to Noruz, Azerbaijan’s New Year celebration. While the presidential pardoning of prisoners is common around this time, it has traditionally not been extended to political prisoners.
Gozel had spent nearly two years in prison.