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Azerbaijani opposition leader ruled ‘fit for army service’ despite health problems

15 May 2020
Ruslan Izzetli being detained during a protest on 11 February against February’s elections results. Photo Fatima Movlamli.

The head of Azerbaijan’s opposition D18 Movement, Ruslan Izzetli, has been ruled fit for military service despite repeated medical examinations showing he had health problems. Izzetli has labelled the move ‘political punishment’ for his protest against electoral fraud during February’s elections.

Izzetli said he was ruled fit for service following an examination on 8 May in Baku in which doctors refused to perform any tests. 

He said that results from a previous examination two days earlier in Aghdam had been falsified to remove diagnoses that would preclude him from service.

‘The doctors [in Baku] said they could not influence the outcome, although they could see that the document had been changed’, he said.

A photograph of the results of the original Aghdam examination show he was diagnosed with kidney stone disease in his right kidney and kidney stones in both kidneys. This would exclude him from peacetime service according to Azerbaijan’s military regulations.

Aladdin Najafov, a doctor from Aghdam District Hospital who examined Izzetli told Argument.az that he was unaware that the documents had been changed afterwards. ‘We signed the final act, and Ruslan Izzetli took a picture of it. I don't know anything more’, he said. 

Izzetli said that after being diagnosed during the examination in Aghdam, the head of the Aghdam branch of the State Service for Mobilisation and Conscription, Elkhan Feyziyev, refused to accept the results and insulted the doctor. ‘Izzetli is an oppositionist and a traitor’, Izzetli quoted him as saying.

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According to Izzetli, he was called in to be examined early after the State Service for Mobilisation and Conscription claimed to have lost the results of his previous examination, carried out in August.

He said he had been undergoing checks with the military medical commission every three years after being ruled unfit for peacetime duty but fit for war-time service in May 2007.

A document dated 26 August 2019 signed by the head of the Aghdam branch of the State Service for Mobilisation and Conscription, Elkhan Feyziyev, ruling Izzetli not fit for peacetime service but fit for wartime service. Photo Ruslan Izzetli

According to medical documents provided by Izzeleti, he underwent private testing at the Mediland Hospital in Baku later on 8 May where he was also diagnosed with ‘nerve-wrenching disc hernia’. 

Izzetli told OC Media he was now waiting to see if he is called up for service. ‘At the same time, my lawyer has started legal proceeding for the falsification of my documents and determining me eligible for the army illegally’, he said.

OC Media was unable to reach the State Service for Mobilisation and Conscription.

‘Political punishment’

Izzetli called what was happening ‘political punishment’ and linked it to protests by the D18 Movement against electoral fraud during 9 February’s parliamentary elections. 

He said the movement had been facing increased pressure from the government since the elections. 

[Read more on OC Media: Azerbaijani authorities close down opposition office ‘over coronavirus fears’

Izzetli was a candidate in the 33 Khatai Constituency, the results of which were cancelled soon after the elections because of the alleged fraud. 

[Read more on OC Media: Azerbaijan cancels election results for ‘at least 4 constituencies’ due to electoral fraud

The D18 Movement was one of the organisers of a protest on 16 February in which dozens of people, including opposition leaders and candidates, were detained and left stranded by police throughout the country. 

Izzetli said that in March and April he had refused to participate in ‘dialogue’ with the government, which he called a ‘tale about reforms’. 

According to him, those who proposed he take part in dialogue also asked about his intention to participate in the re-run of the poll in the 33 Khatai Constituency. 

‘It seems that my participation in the election from that constituency may hinder the government’s games in that constituency. That’s another reason why I was drafted into the army’, he said. 

Izzetli has since received support from a number of opposition figures. 

Ilgar Mammadov, the chair of the opposition ReAl party, said that the government should not sully the name of the army ‘in political intrigues’. 

Azer Gasimli, the founder of the Movement electoral block and a former member of ReAl, said that this was not the first time the government had punished political activists and its active critics by sending them to the army. 

‘Most likely, this time the main purpose is to prevent [Izzetli] from running in the re-run of the elections in the cancelled constituency’, he said.

Investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova stated that the government uses the army ‘as a penalty battalion for the opposition’. 

She also warned that using military service as a means of ‘revenge’ would damage the capabilities of the armed forces.