Natalia Project Bearer Rasul Jafarov Arrested in Baku
On 2 August Civil Rights Defenders received notification that Azeri journalist, human rights defender and Natalia Project Bearer Rasul Jafarov had been arrested in Baku, Azerbaijan. He is to be held in pre-trial detention for up to three months. The charges levied against him include tax evasion, illegal commercial activity and abuse of authority.
“We are shocked and dismayed at what seems to be an attack on Rasul Jafarov for his activities as a human rights defender. Civil Rights Defenders calls on the authorities in Azerbaijan to provide a safe environment for all human rights defenders so as to enable them to perform their important work,” said Robert Hårdh, Executive Director, Civil Rights Defenders.
At this stage it appears that the charges directed against Rasul clearly relate to his activities as Chairman and Founder of the Human Rights Club (HRC), an NGO that the Azeri government has continually prevented from registering since its establishment in 2010. This tactic used by the authorities is intent on hindering the work of civil society organisations in the country while at the same time silencing their opposition regarding human rights abuses.
The detention of Rasul Jafarov comes hot on the heels of the arrest earlier in the week of fellow Azeri human rights defender Leyla Yunus. In May 2014, Anar Mammadli, founder of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS), was sentenced to five years in prison on similar charges as those faced by Rasul Jafarov.
About Rasul Jafarov
As the chairman of the HRC, Rasul Jafarov coordinated the “Sing for Democracy” campaign which used the Eurovision Song Contest as a platform to improve human rights awareness in Azerbaijan. During the contest, “Sing for Democracy” attracted significant international attention to human rights violations in Azerbaijan. In December 2012, “Sing for Democracy” was expanded and rebranded as “Art for Democracy,” which Rasul Jafarov continues to lead.
In 2012 Rasul Jafarov was responsible for the, “Expression Online Initiative”, which used the annual conference, ”Internet Governance Forum”, in Baku as a platform to monitor, protect and influence the exercise of freedoms in cyberspace. The campaign continues to expand Internet freedoms by protecting online activists, streamlining and initiating new Internet freedom legislation, as well as engaging in practical solutions to protect Internet rights.