The Baku Court of Appeal has transferred opposition leader Tofig Yagublu, who was on his 17th day of hunger strike against his conviction, to house arrest, his lawyer reports.
The court announced the decision on Friday after previously insisting his appeal would not be heard until 28 September.
One of Yagublu’s lawyers, Elchin Sadigov, told journalists that the court did not consider his conviction and that this would be considered as scheduled on 28 September.
Yagublu’s son-in-law, Seymour Hazi, said he had spoken to Yagublu’s doctor who informed him that Yagublu had ended his hunger strike.
The sudden reversal came as doctors warned his health was deteriorating and that he could fall into a coma at any moment.
On Thursday, Yagublu began to refuse any forms of injections supporting his declining health. He was delivered from prison to a private clinic in Baku on 12 September and had already been refusing injections of nutrients.
On Wednesday, Yagublu told his daughter, Nigar Hazi, that he was considering giving up water.
Yagublu — who has been declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International — was sentenced by the Nizami District Court to four years and three months in prison on charges of hooliganism.
After officials had previously accused the opposition of using Yagublu’s plight for their own ends, on Thursday, MP Zahid Oruj made a statement with a marked change of tone. Oruj, who chairs parliament’s Human Rights Committee, said that ‘the government is not interested in the deterioration of Tofig Yagublu’s health’.
He said that he had been ‘assured’ that ‘appropriate reactions and steps will be taken in the coming days in this regard’.
‘Prisoner of conscience’
Yagublu was detained on 22 March and charged with attacking a married couple with a screwdriver following a car accident in Baku. He has claimed that the car deliberately hit him after which the occupants attacked him.
His arrest came several days after Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev announced the detention and ‘if necessary’ isolation of dissidents during the national quarantine.
Yagublu went on a hunger strike on 2 September after judge Nariman Mehdiyev interrupted his closing remarks to the court several times before cutting him off entirely.
After being sentenced a day later, he said he would remain on hunger strike until he died or was released.
[Read more on OC Media: Imprisoned Azerbaijani opposition leader on ‘hunger strike until death’]
Since the beginning of his hunger strike, Yagublu has met widespread local and international support in the form of hunger strikes and protests both inside and outside Azerbaijan, as well as international condemnation of his detention.
[Read more on OC Media: Azerbaijanis from Baku to Berlin are demanding freedom for Tofig Yagublu]