14 Human Rights Defenders Released from Prison in Azerbaijan

Civil Rights Defenders and 19 other member organisations of the Sports For Right coalition are delighted and relieved after the Azerbaijani authorities released 15 human rights defenders from prison. One of the prisoners pardoned on 17 March was Rasul Jafarov, founder of the Sports for Right campaign. He had spent 593 days behind bars on politically motivated charges.

On the same day of his release, the European Court of Human Rights issued a judgment in Rasul Jafarov’s case, acknowledging that his arrest and detention were politically motivated. Rasul Jafarov was one of 14 political prisoners included in a presidential pardon decree signed on 17 March.

The other political prisoners pardoned through the decree include:

  • Journalists Parviz Hashimli, Hilal Mammadov, and Tofig Yagublu;
  • human rights defenders Taleh Khasmammadov and Anar Mammadli;
  • NIDA civic movement activists Rashadat Akhundov, Mahammad Azizov and Rashad Hasanov;
  • bloggers Siraj Karimli and Omar Mammadov;
  • former government official Akif Muradverdiyev;
  • Chairman of the National Statehood party Nemat Penahli;
  • and Musavat party activist Yadigar Sadigov

A further political prisoner, journalist Rauf Mirkadirov, was released on 17 March by the Baku Court of Appeals, which commuted his six-year prison sentence into a suspended five-year sentence. Mirkadirov had been unjustly jailed since April 2014 on politically motivated treason charges.

While Civil Rights Defenders welcomes the release and see it as a step in the right direction dozens of others still remain incarcerated on politically motivated charges such as renowned investigative journalist Khadiya Ismayilova and Human Rights Lawyer Intigam Aliyev.

After his release Civil Rights Defender had the opportunity to chat directly with Rasul Jafarov. He advised that was in good spirits and had remained an optimist throughout this difficult period. He was  thankful for the support received from us and other organisation. He said he was treated well in prison as the guards understood who he was and respected him for being willing to go to prison for his ideals.

Civil Rights Defenders and 20 other international civil society organisations all members of the Sport for Right coalition now urge for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, and for an end to the cycle of politically motivated arrests in Azerbaijan. We urge the international community to continue to press for the release of the remaining political prisoners as a matter of urgent priority, and for further concrete reforms to improve the country’s dire human rights situation.

Supporting organisations:

  1. ARTICLE 19
  2. Civil Rights Defenders
  3. Committee to Protect Journalists
  4. Freedom Now
  5. Front Line Defenders
  6. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
  7. Human Rights House Foundation
  8. Index on Censorship
  9. Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety
  10. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  11. International Media Support
  12. International Partnership for Human Rights
  14. Netherlands Helsinki Committee
  15. Norwegian Helsinki Committee
  16. PEN America
  17. People in Need
  18. Platform
  19. Polish Green Network
  20. Reporters Without Borders
  21. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)