Despite pardon of fifty political prisoners, problem not fully resolved – Human Rights Activists

According to updated data of human rights defenders, the order on clemency signed by the President of Azerbaijan affected 51 political prisoners. However, activists believe that the order did not solve the problem and according to different lists, from 74 to 80 political prisoners remain in prisons.

The order on pardon affected 51 political prisoners, member of the civil society working group on compiling a single list of political prisoners Bashir Suleimanly told Turan.

According to him, there has not been such a massive release of political prisoners since the beginning of the 2000s, when Azerbaijan entered the Council of Europe.

He pointed out that pardoned were not only well-known youth and opposition activists and former state officials, but all those convicted of participating in social protest actions in Ismayilli, Siyazan and Mingachevir.

Also pardoned were the blogger Rashad Ramazanov (Agaddin) and the editor of the azadxeber.org site Nijat Aliyev. There are pardons from among various categories of believers, including those convicted of the Nardaran events of 2015, in the case of Saeed Dadashbeyli, and others, said Suleimanly.

Two people left the list of political prisoners at the beginning of March – the blogger Mehman Huseynov and the head of the youth organization of the Musavat party Abulfaz Sadigbeyli, who was conditionally convicted.

Thus, 53 convicts drop out of the list of 127 political prisoners announced by the working group in February. However, 74 people are still on the list.

Suleimanly noted with regret that the pardon did not affect the journalists Afgan Mukhtarly and Seymour Hazy, the activist of the Popular Front Party Fuad Ahmedli and others.

The initiator of the campaign in social networks “Free!”, the head of the Human Rights Club Rasul Jafarov called the pardon “the right step towards solving the problem of political prisoners.” “However, problems are not fully resolved,” he told Turan.

Jafarov noted that the order affected almost all categories of political prisoners. At the same time, the group of convicts in the case of the Islamic Party, led by its leader Movsum Samadov and those sentenced to life imprisonment were not affected. We are talking about people who in the early and mid 1990s were sentenced to death. After the abolition of death penalties, the convicts were automatically sentenced to life imprisonment, which was illegal, since at the time of their conviction the alternative to the death penalty was 15 years” imprisonment, Jafarov said.

He believes that the authorities should continue the steps to fully solve the problem of political prisoners.

In his opinion, international organizations, having greeted the current pardon, after a while will still demand the release of all other political prisoners.

“PACE has appointed a rapporteur on political prisoners in Azerbaijan and the report will be prepared in any case. To put an end to the criticism of the country once and for all, all political prisoners should be released,” Jafarov said.

At the same time, he indicated inconsistency in the authorities’ approach to pardon.

“People convicted in this case are separated by incomprehensible logic – some are released, while others are not. Or they release those who still have 8-10 years of the prison term left and at the same time, they do not let out those who have just a few months before their release,” Jafarov said.

He believes that those who have little time left until the end of their sentence can be released through parole mechanisms with goodwill.

“An amnesty can be initiated by the Parliament. Until now, convicts for minor crimes have been amnestied. Now it is possible to declare an amnesty to certain categories of those convicted for serious crimes,” said Jafarov.

The coordinator of the union For the Freedom of Political Prisoners of Azerbaijan Elshan Hasanov said that “a pardon did not solve the problem of political prisoners.” “Of course, it”s good that fifty political prisoners have been released.

But 80 more political prisoners remain in prisons.

Unfortunately, no one has been pardoned from those 14 persons serving a life sentence for whom this punishment was automatically assigned after the abolition of the death penalty. The pardon did not affect Abulfaz Bunyadov, convicted of the Nardaran events, who is bedridden. This is a half-hearted solution to the problem of political prisoners,” Hasanov told Turan. 

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Baku/16.03.19/Turan: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree pardoning a group of convicted persons on Saturday. According to the document, 399 people were exempt from further punishment.

For two persons, life imprisonment was replaced by a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 20 years, and for another one – by a sentence of 25 years in prison.

One convicted person was released from serving a delayed sentence, and one more from a sentence in the form of restriction of freedom.

In addition, 11 people were exempted from probation, 3 – from correctional labor, 1 – from community service, and 12 – from fines.

Thus, the pardon affected a total of 431 people.

Among the pardoned are a number of well-known political prisoners.

In particular, the youth activists of the NIDA movement Ilkin Rustamzadeh, Elgiz Gahraman, Bayram Mammadov and Giyas Ibrahimov were exempted from further serving the sentence. The last two were arrested after writing slogans on a monument to Heydar Aliyev in May 2016 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The ex-Health Minister, 73-year-old Ali Insanov, the poet-satirist Tofig Hasanov, Vasif Ibrahimov convicted of Ismayilli events, the former prosecutor office investigator Rufat Safarov, and the journalist Fikret Faramazoglu were released.

PFPA deputy chairmen Fuad Gahramanly and Gezal Bayramly, an activist of this party Murad Adilov, and a member of the Musavat party Alikram Khurshidov were also released.

In addition, among the pardoned is the brother-in-law of the leader of the Popular Front Party Ali Kerimli, Elnur Seyidov.

The pardon also affected Shiite theologian Zulfugar Mikayilov (Mikayilzade), the deputy chairman of the Muslim Unity movement Elchin Gasimov and Elman Agayev, an activist of this organization, who were convicted of the Nardaran events.

In addition to political prisoners, among the pardoned are also former high-ranking officials – the former Deputy Defense Minister Mehman Salimov and the former head of the Baku City Telephone Production Association Beytulla Huseynov.