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Azerbaijan’s Narimanov District Court has sentenced human rights lawyer Emin Aslan to 30 days administrative detention for ‘disobeying police’. The pretext for police to approach and detain Aslan remain unknown.
Aslan has for years worked to protect human rights in Azerbaijan, litigating a number of cases of alleged human rights abuses of Azerbaijani citizens at the European Court of Human Rights, and working for two Tbilisi-based rights groups.
According to a Facebook post by Azerbaijani journalist Arzu Geybullayeva, a friend of Aslan’s, ‘he was previously accused of tax evasion at the time of his work with some of the NGOs in Azerbaijan, [but] he has paid all his dues and has no history of criminal record’.
Meydan TV reported that his lawyer Elchin Sadigov was not admitted to the court hearing. Following his apparent disappearance on Monday, the Stockholm based Civil Rights Defenders called on the Azerbaijani government to immediately release him, while South Caucasus Director of Human Rights Watch Giorgi Gogia criticised Baku for holding him incommunicado.
According to the head of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS), Anar Mammadli, Aslan was detained on 4 June by plain-clothed police officers. Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova claimed that after international attention, ‘police found no better solution than to take him to the court for ‘resistance to police’ charges’.
Local human rights advocates identified the owner of the car by which Aslan was taken away as that of Mehman Teymurov, a member of the police’s Anti-Organised Crime Unit and an ‘operative in a number of political cases’.
Aslan’s attorney Elchin Sadigov as well as friends and family were not informed of his whereabouts and he was denied access to his lawyer for more than twelve hours, until the next day when the Department for Combating Organised Crime confirmed his detention.
Human rights defender
Aslan previously worked for the South Caucasus Programme of the Tbilisi-based Eastern European Centre for Multiparty Democracy (EECMD) from 2014–2016. Speaking to OC Media, Human Rights House Tbilisi confirmed that after 2016 Aslan also worked in their organisation as a consultant, until departing for US for studies. He recently graduated from Syracuse University College of Law, and returned to Baku only around a week ago.
In a letter of support, Levan Tsutskiridze head of the EECMD described Aslan’s detention as ‘horrible’. ‘What future is there if we, instead of encouraging and protecting the best educated and most motivated people of our nations, silence them and throw them in prison cells hoping that they never ever speak again, that they never ever dream again of a better future…? Unfortunate that the government marks its 100th anniversary by arresting its open minded young leaders’.
Emin left his native country for Georgia to escape a wave of prosecutions of activists and people working with international organisations in Azerbaijan.
International rights groups like Human Rights Watch and Freedom House have condemned Azerbaijan’s human rights record.
In it’s 2018 report, Human Rights Watch said that during a continuing crackdown on independent voices, Azerbaijani authorities convicted at least 25 journalists and political activists last tear, while dozens more were detained or are under criminal investigation, face harassment and travel bans, or have fled.
Freedom House’s Nation in Transit 2018 report named Azerbaijan as one of ‘Eurasia’s entrenched autocracies — [where] personalised regimes keep a tight grip on power, suppressing political competition and targeting independent activists and journalists who dare to speak out’.