Azerbaijani journalist Fuad Abbasov has announced that he is on hunger strike after Russian authorities detained him on the way to the airport after ordering him to leave the country.
Abbasov was first arrested on 16 May and charged with violating immigration laws. According to his lawyer, Abbasov was beaten by police officers during his detention.
On 6 June, the Moscow Region Khimki Court denied his appeal, ordering he leave the country within 10 days and banning him from entering Russia for 50 years.
Abbasov was re-arrested and taken to a migrant detention centre the following day on 7 June, as he was on his way to the airport.
‘From today, I begin a hunger strike. Because today I had to go to Azerbaijan, but on the way to the airport, the car was turned around and I was taken to a special detention centre for migrants in Korolevo in Moscow.’ Abbasov said in an audio message on his Facebook page on 7 June.
‘[I want them to] let me either be sent to Azerbaijan or let me go. Therefore, I am going on a hunger strike’, he said.
According to Abbasov’s lawyer, Teyub Sharifov, the authorities have not provided any reason for his client’s re-arrest.
Sharifov told OC Media on Monday that Abbasov had lost a lot of weight and was not feeling well.
‘He demands the execution of the court decision on his expulsion to Azerbaijan. However, no one comes to him or reacts to his hunger strike’, said Sharifov.
On 11 June, the Azerbaijani Embassy in Russia sent an official note to the Russian authorities asking for clarification about Abbasov’s re-arrest.
Speaking of his initial arrest, Abbasov told Azerbaijani news agency ONA on 24 May that ‘I was treated rudely during the arrest and at the police station. I was given a document to sign. It was written there that my permission to reside in Russia had been revoked’.
On 22 May, a protest was held in front of the Russian Embassy in Baku against his detention. The protesters, including members of Abbasov’s family, condemned what they said was police violence against him and urged the authorities to punish those responsible.
Cancelled residency permit ‘without informing about it’
Fuad Abbasov is a Moscow-based journalist and the founder and editor in chief of MISRA, an online TV station for Russia’s Azerbaijani diaspora community.
In his interview with ONA, Abbasov said that his residency permit in Russia was not due to expire until 2023. He said it was cancelled on 17 March and that according to law, he was then obliged to leave Russia within 15 days.
‘But I was not warned about this. They did not tell me that my Russian residency permit had been cancelled and that I must leave the country in such and such a period’, he said.
He left Russia to travel to Azerbaijan on 9 April; ‘According to them, I had to leave Russia on 2 April’, he said.
Abbasov told ONA that he travelled to Moscow from Baku to check if information circulated in the media that he had been banned from entering Russia was true, and was allowed to enter unhindered.
He said that on 18 April, he sued the authorities to check if his residency permit had really been cancelled. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for 7 May.
‘They said that the reports were true. At trial, I demanded to be shown an official document on my entry ban into Russia. They said that they didn’t have such a document with them and that it would be presented at the next session. The next session was to be held on 17 May at 11:00 but on 16 May I was detained’, he said.
Conflict with the Azerbaijani diaspora
According to Abbasov, his arrest and deportation is the result of a public feud with several prominent Azerbaijani diaspora organisations in Russia.
In a live video on MISTRA’s YouTube channel in March, Abbasov criticised the work of the Federal National and Cultural Autonomy of Azerbaijanis of Russia (AzerRos) and the Russian-Azerbaijani Cultural Society in Moscow (AzerMos).
He accused Mehriban Sadiqova, the head of AzerRos, and Aghadadash Kerimov, the head of the AzerMos, of being ‘inactive’ and urged both to resign.
On 13 March, AzerRos and AzerMos appealed to Russian and Azerbaijani media outlets to ‘be careful’ when publishing statements by Abbasov. They accused him of ‘populism’ and said he wanted to ‘present himself as the “Robin Hood” of the Azerbaijani diaspora’.
‘The whole point of his pseudo-patriotic activity is that he collects funds to continue his “noble” mission, thereby discrediting the entire diaspora movement.’ they said.
In their appeal, they expressed deep indignation at interviews with Abbasov in which he said that ‘the Azerbaijani diaspora fulfils the orders of certain bodies but does not protect the interests of citizens’.
‘Social work is a complex, multifaceted activity that covers all spheres of life and is comes with certain difficulties. And we know that there is work to do in order to meet the challenges of the times!’, their appeal said.
According to Azerbaijani news agency Report, proceedings against Abbasov began after several Azerbaijani diaspora organisations appealed to a court in Moscow demanding his deportation. They said the court began considering the case on 7 May.