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Azerbaijani activist reportedly detained and tortured after ‘betrayal’ by former journalist

19 June 2024
Nijat Amiraslanov. Image via social media.

An Azerbaijani activist has said he was detained and tortured by the authorities after a former journalist who he had helped to escape from the country returned and turned him in.

Nijat Amiraslanov, a member of the pro-democracy NIDA movement, was reportedly abducted from his home on Sunday, tortured, and then released the following day.

Amiraslanov told OC Media that he was detained after a former Azerbaijani journalist, Shirin (Tire) Abbasov, returned to Azerbaijan and testified that he had smuggled him out of the country in 2016.

Abbasov formerly worked with Meydan TV and AbzasMedia, and sought asylum in Germany following Azerbaijan’s 2015 crackdown on independent media and civil society.

Abbasov recently announced that he was returning to Azerbaijan, leading to suspicions he had began working with the authorities against his former colleagues.

Afgan Mukhtarli, an exiled Azerbaijani journalist, said that Abbasov intended to testify against Meydan TV and AbzasMedia, as part of the authorities’ ongoing crackdown on media.

‘We learned about that at the beginning of the month. Rather, he said it himself. We did everything to prevent him from returning, but Shirin did it. While in Berlin, he made it clear that he was cooperating with the [Azerbaijani] authorities’, wrote Mukhtarli on Facebook.


After Amiraslanov was released, Mukhtarli posted on Facebook that ‘people are betrayed not only by those who act as agents but also by those whose hand you hold’. 

x‘And they enjoy their betrayal. Such kinds of people are more dangerous, because you can't say everything about them openly.’

Abbasov was detained for a month in 2015, after the government raided Meydan TV and accused the organisation of illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion, and abuse of power.

At the time, he accused the police of torturing him into testifying against Meydan TV. He said that he was released on the condition of spying on his colleagues at the independent outlet.

Abbasov reportedly refused to do so and asked Amiraslanov to smuggle him out of Azerbaijan, as the authorities had imposed travel restrictions on employees of Meydan TV.

Torture in detention

Amiraslanov was reportedly detained on Sunday after stepping out of his home to pick up a delivery that was on its way.

His mother told Meydan TV that he disappeared after telling her he would return home in five minutes.

The authorities refused to comment on Amiraslanov’s whereabouts until his release on Monday afternoon. 

Amiraslanov told OC Media that he was warned by the authorities not to comment on his abduction or detention to the media.

He said that he was kidnapped as he was waiting for a courier to deliver a package.

‘I was tracking my bag online and when the courier called me and said he was arriving, I went outside and told him that I was waiting outside. At that moment, someone jumped me, put a bag over my head, and I was arrested’, Amiraslanov said.

He said he was tortured with electric shocks whilst in detention leading him to lose consciousness. He said that his nose was bleeding when he regained consciousness.

One of Amiraslanov’s friends told OC Media on condition of anonymity that the activist appeared to have been tortured.

‘His legs are swollen and his face is red. He went to the doctor and we will follow his medical examination’, they said.

Amiraslanov did not identify the security agency that detained him.

Yalchin Imanov, a former human rights lawyer, told OC Media that Amiraslanov was being accused of illegally crossing the border as part of a group with threats of violence.

‘According to the Criminal Code it’s considered a minor crime’, he said, adding that the charge’s statute of limitations had expired a year ago.

However, he noted that since Amiraslanov helped Abbasov flee Azerbaijan eight years ago, charges against Abbasov could persist given that he had legally ‘hid from prosecution’, forcing the court case to stall.

‘After [Abbasov] he was arrested this refreshed the prosecution in such a situation I couldn’t say that Amiraslanov would be released from criminal liability’, said the lawyer.

Amiraslanov was reportedly tortured in detention in 2017 after criticising the authorities on social media.

Read in Armenian on CivilNet.
Read in Azerbaijani on AbzasMedia.
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