EURASIA

Many countries in the region have been suppressing voices and movements that are critical of governments as they seek to demonstrate their success in economic development. Azerbaijan is one such country where the government has also restricted the work of all independent civil society organizations (CSOs). For the past decade, authorities have prosecuted hundreds of activists, journalists, and public figures on politically motivated charges, such as drug possession, tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, and even treason. 

UPDATE: In May 2017, a group of local civil society organizations issued an updated report stating that there are currently more than 120 political prisoners in Azerbaijan, some of which are highlighted below. Please see full list here.

Fuad Ahmadli

AZERBAIJAN

Detained August 18, 2016

Fuad Ahmadli is a young activist and member of the opposition political party Popular Front who served as the head of the Khatai branch of Popular Front's Youth Committee. He was arrested on August 18, 2016 and sentenced to four years in prison. Authorities accused him of illegally distributing personal data and having ties to a terrorist group.

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Afgan Mukhtarli

AZERBAIJAN

Kidnapped May 29, 2017

Afgan Mukhtarli is a well-known investigative journalist based in Tbilisi, Georgia, where he had been living in exile to avoid persecution in Azerbaijan. In May 2017, he was kidnapped from Tbilisi and forcefully taken to Baku, where he was sentenced to six years in prison on fabricated charges in January 2018.

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Seymur Hazi (Haziyev)

AZERBAIJAN

Detained August 29, 2014

Seymur Hazi (or Haziyev) is an Azerbaijani journalist who has worked as a reporter for leading independent newspaper Azadliq and served as an anchor for opposition satellite TV program Azerbaijan Saati (“Azerbaijani Hour”). He is also a senior politician with the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan.

On August 29, 2014, Seymur was attacked by a man at a bus stop. When he defended himself, police officers detained him. He was later sentenced to five years in prison on charges of "hooliganism."

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Tale Bagirzade

AZERBAIJAN

Detained November 26, 2015

Update: In February 2019, Tale Bagirzade began a hunger strike in protest of his reported torture while imprisoned in Gobustan prison, a high-security prison outside of Baku. A month prior, he published a plea asking the international community “do not be indifferent” to “human tragedy in Gobustan Prison.”

Tale Bagirzade is a prominent Shia theologian in Azerbaijan. He is also founder and head of the Muslim Unity Movement, a peaceful Shiite Islamic socio-political movement that calls for democratic reform and religious liberties.

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Gozel Bayramli

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.

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Bayram Mammadov

AZERBAIJAN

Released April 29, 2019

UPDATE: Bayram Mammadov was released on April 29, 2019 after serving a 30-day term in prison. Along with his prior term in prison from May 9, 2016 to March 17, 2019, Bayram was detained for almost three years.

Bayram Mammadov is a student and member of the NIDA Civic Movement, a pro-democracy youth organization that has been targeted by the government. In 2016, he was arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison along with fellow activist and NIDA member Givas Ibrahimov.

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Giyas Ibrahimov

AZERBAIJAN

Detained May 9, 2016

Update: Giyas Ibrahimov was released by presidential pardon almost three years into his sentence on March 17, 2019, ahead of Noruz—Azerbaijan’s New Year celebration.

Giyas Ibramihov is a student and member of the NIDA Civic Movement, a pro-democracy youth organization that has been targeted by the government. In 2016, Giyas was arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison along with fellow activist Bayram Mammadov.

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Ilgar Mammadov

AZERBAIJAN

Detained February 6, 2013

UPDATE: On August 13, 2018, Ilgar Mammadov was released after the remaining two years in his internship in his sentence were suspended. However, he is banned from leaving Azerbaijan.

Ilgar Mammadov is an Azerbaijani politician and outspoken critic of the Azerbaijani government. He is the head of the Republican Alternative Party, an opposition political party.

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Ilkin Rustamzade

AZERBAIJAN

Detained May 17, 2013

Update: Ilkin Rustamzade was released by presidential pardon almost six years into his sentence on March 17, 2019, ahead of Noruz—Azerbaijan’s New Year celebration.

Ilkin Rustamzade is a youth activist and leading member of Azad Genclik (“Free Youth”), a pro-democracy youth movement in Azerbaijan. An outspoken critic of the government, Ilkin and other members of Azad Genclik regularly used social media to organize peaceful protests.

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Khadija Ismailova

AZERBAIJAN

Detained December 5, 2014

UPDATE: On January 10, 2019, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Azerbaijani government had violated Khadija Ismayilova's right to privacy and freedom of expression. Khadija was released on probation on May 25, 2016, after the court reduced her sentence to a 3.5-year suspended sentence.

Khadija Ismayilova is an investigative journalist and radio host for the Azerbaijani service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Khadija uncovered massive levels of corruption involving Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his family.

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Mehman Huseynov

AZERBAIJAN

Detained March 3, 2017

UPDATE: On March 3, 2019, Mehman was freed after serving two years in prison, completing the full length of his sentence.

Mehman Huseynov is a well-known anti-corruption blogger and photojournalist in Azerbaijan and the Chairman of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Security (IRFS), an Azerbaijani organization that promotes freedom of expression. Mehman has documented the deteriorating political freedoms in Azerbaijan through powerful photographs and videos.”

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Intigam Aliyev

AZERBAIJAN

Detained August 8, 2014

UPDATE: Intigam Aliyev was released on probation on March 28, 2016. On September 20, 2018, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Azerbaijani government had detained him on politically motivated charges.

Intigam Aliyev is a leading Azerbaijani human rights lawyer and activist. As the founder and head of the Legal Education Society, an organization that provides legal assistance to low-income and marginalized citizens in Azerbaijan, Intigam has defended over 200 clients in the European Court of Human Rights. He received the Homo Homini award in 2012 for his work in human rights.

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Rauf Mirkadirov

AZERBAIJAN

Detained April 19, 2014

UPDATE: Rauf Mirkadirov was released on March 17, 2016, after his sentence was suspended. However, he has not been fully acquitted and states that he will continue fighting to have his name cleared.

Rauf Mirkadirov is a prominent Azerbaijani journalist who served as the Turkey correspondent for the independent Azerbaijani newspaper Zerkalo.

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Anar Mammadli

AZERBAIJAN

Detained December 16, 2013

UPDATE: Anar Mammadli was released on March 17, 2016, ahead of Noruz—Azerbaijan’s New Year celebration.

Anar Mammadli is a prominent Azerbaijani human rights activist and independent elections monitor who has been particularly outspoken about the Azerbaijani government’s improper conduct of elections. He founded the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS), a non-governmental organization that works to support free and fair elections in Azerbaijan.

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Tofiq Yaqublu

AZERBAIJAN

Detained January 24, 2013

UPDATE: Tofiq Yaqublu was released by presidential pardon on March 17, 2016, ahead of Noruz—Azerbaijan’s New Year celebration.

Tofiq Yaqublu is a journalist for Yeni Musavat, an independent Azerbaijani newspaper, and is the Deputy Chairman of the Musavat Party, an opposition youth political party in Azerbaijan.

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Arif Yunus

AZERBAIJAN

Detained August 5, 2014

UPDATE: On April 19, 2016, Arif Yunus and his wife Leyla Yunus were allowed to travel to the Netherlands, where they received political asylum. In May 2017, the Azerbaijani government ordered the couple to return to the country to stand trial. The couple now resides in exile in the Netherlands.

Arif Yunus is an Azerbaijani author, historian, and leading human rights activist. He is the head of the Department of Conflict and Migration at the Institute for Peace and Democracy, a prominent human rights non-governmental organization (NGO) in Azerbaijan.

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Yadigar Sadiqov

AZERBAIJAN

Detained June 2013

UPDATE: On March 17, 2016, Yadigar Sadiqov was released by presidential pardon ahead of Noruz, Azerbaijan’s New Year celebration.

Yadigar Sadiqov is an academic and prominent political activist in Azerbaijan. He is a Deputy Chairman of the opposition Musavat party and serves as a top political advisor to Isa Gambar, the party’s national leader.

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Leyla Yunus

AZERBAIJAN

Detained July 30, 2014

UPDATE: On April 19, 2016, Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus were able to travel to the Netherlands, where they received political asylum. In May 2017, the Azerbaijani government ordered the couple to return to the country to stand trial. The couple now resides in exile in the Netherlands.

Leyla Yunus is a prominent Azerbaijani human rights activist and the founding director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, a leading human rights non-governmental organization (NGO) in Azerbaijan.

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Rasul Jafarov

AZERBAIJAN

Detained August 2, 2014

UPDATE: Rasul Jafarov was released by presidential pardon on March 17, 2016, after spending a year and a half in prison. On July 25, 2019, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Azerbaijani government had unlawfully denied Rasul’s organization, the Human Rights Club, registration as a lawful NGO in the country--which had served as the basis for Rasul's detention.

Rasul Jafarov is a lawyer and prominent human rights defender in Azerbaijan. He founded the Human Rights Club (HRC), a non-governmental organization (NGO) that launched the widely covered “Sing for Democracy” campaign—a campaign that highlighted human rights violations in Azerbaijan while the country hosted the Eurovision Song Contest.

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