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Azerbaijan re-arrests opposition activists detained for ‘quarantine violation’ 

1 June 2020
Ruslan Amirov (left), Faig Amirli (centre), Niyameddin Ahmadov (right).

Three members of the opposition Popular Front Party who were earlier detained on quarantine violations charges have been re-arrested.

Ruslan Amirov, a bodyguard for Popular Front Party leader Ali Karimli, was given 15 days of administrative detention on Friday on charges of petty hooliganism. 

Amirov was one of the first of dozens of opposition activists arrested during the quarantine regime in Azerbaijan. He was detained on 9 April on quarantine violation charges and released after a month. 

[Read more on OC Media: Azerbaijan opposition party claims nearly a dozen members arrested in last two weeks

The Interior Ministry said that Amirov’s latest arrest was for trying to move from the city of Masalli in southern Azerbaijan to Baku, which is prohibited during the quarantine regime.

‘At the police station […] of the Baku-Alat-Astara highway, he, like everyone else, was required to submit a document. Ruslan Amirov refused to submit the document because he was not registered in Baku’, they stated.

He is not the only activist from the party to be arrested for a second time in late May. Faig Amirli, an assistant to Karimli and editor-in-chief of the Azaldig newspaper was also detained for 15 days on 25 May on the same charges as Amirov. 

His wife, Lala Amirli, told Meydan TV that he went to the city of Sabirabad to visit his parents’ grave during Ramadan. She said that while at their home in Sabirabad, Amirli was called to the police station ‘to talk’ where he was arrested for petty hooliganism. 

Several prominent lawyers have labelled Amirli’s arrest ‘politically motivated’. 

Amirli was previously detained on 8 April near his house in Baku and given for 30 days administrative detention on quarantine violation charges. 

Another of Karimli’s bodyguards, Niyameddin Ahmadov, was charged on 18 May with ‘financing terrorism’.

Popular Front Party leader Ali Karimli (centre) on his way to a protest on 19 October with Niyameddin Ahmadov to his left. Photo: Turan.

Ahmadov was detained on quarantine violation charges a month earlier and was scheduled to be released on 15 May.

Ahmadov’s lawyer, Ahmad Farhadov, told BBC Azerbaijan on 18 May that he had been remanded in custody for four months. 

According to Farhadov, the charges state that Ahmadov had ‘criminal relations’ with Gabil Mammadov, a Germany-based vlogger known for his criticism of President Ilham Aliyev and his family. Mammadov has also been accused of financing terrorism. 

Ahmadov has pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

The Popular Front Party said the arrests were part of ‘a vindictive, hateful policy’ by President Ilham Aliyev. 

‘A crackdown on dissidents’

Since Azerbaijan imposed a nationwide quarantine regime on 24 March in response to the coronavirus, the Popular Front Party has reported the arrest of over 30 of their members. 

The Popular Front Party has repeatedly stated that Ahmadov was tortured in detention. 

[Read more on OC Media: Detained opposition activists ‘tortured’ in Azerbaijan

In a statement on 27 May, Amnesty International called on the Azerbaijani government to ‘halt [their] crackdown on dissidents and incarceration of activists’ during the pandemic. 

‘More than a dozen individuals, comprising activists, journalists and others who dared to criticize the authorities’ handling of the pandemic, have been detained and remanded in so-called administrative detention for periods ranging from 10 to 30 days on bogus charges including disobeying police orders or breaking the rules of lockdown’. 

They also called on the authorities to drop the new charges brought against Ahmadov and to release him immediately, ‘together with other activists serving administrative detentions on spurious politically motivated charges’.

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