The popular Azerbajani rap singer Parviz Guluzade, known by the pseudonym Paster, has been arrested, and allegedly tortured by police. He had recently released a song titled ‘Gang’, which criticized Azerbaijan’s Pasha Bank.
News of his arrest and alleged torture was reported on 26 December by independent Azerbaijani journalist Habib Muntazir. In his recent songs Guluzade also criticized the corruption and arbitrariness of Azerbaijani authorities.
According to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), Pasha bank, the largest bank in the country, belongs to the relatives of first lady and vice-president of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva.
On 27 December, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan confirmed that Guluzade has been arrested the previous day for ‘violating public order under influence of drugs’ and ‘disobeying police orders’.
He was given 30 days of administrative detention.
Following Guluzade’s arrest, a social media campaign with the hashtag #freePaster began it quickly won the endorsements of journalists and activists throughout Azerbaijan, as well as the support of major opposition figures including Popular Front Party leader Ali Karimli and Ilgar Mammadov, the leader of the ReAl party.
A prominent blogger ‘kidnapped and beaten’
On the evening of 27 December, popular blogger and former political prisoner Mehman Huseynov held a single-person picket in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs calling for Guluzade’s release.
Huseynov was released from prison in March, after serving two years on charges of defamation, after accusing the police of abducting and torturing him.
[Read more on OC Media: Charges dropped against Huseynov after thousands rally in Baku]
Turan News Agency reported on Friday that a few minutes after Huseynov began his picket he was detained by police and taken to an unknown location.
On Saturday morning it had been reported that Huseynov was beaten and left on the outskirts of Baku.
Huseynov said that he was beaten by five police officers.
‘They pulled my shirt on my head [...] they told me that I was trying to organise a rally’, he said. ‘They were beating me filming it with a phone camera.’
He also said that police officers threatened to rape him, and warned him not to protest in the street again. Huseynov said he plans to appeal to the Prosecutor's Office.
During a medical examination on Sunday, numerous injuries on Huseynov’s neck, ribs, arms, and legs were documented. The previous day, he was examined in a private clinic, where he was diagnosed with a blood clot in his leg.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs told Trend on Saturday that allegations that Huseynov was beaten by police are ‘completely groundless’.
Huseynov also ran for Azerbaijan’s municipal elections, which were held on 23 December. According to the Central Election Commission, he did not win. He has claimed that the results were falsified, adding that observers were not allowed to watch the vote counting process in a majority of polling stations.
[Read more on OC Media: Municipal elections in Azerbaijan marred by violations]
On Saturday, Norwegian Human Rights House Foundation condemned the ‘ill-treatment’ of Huseynov and asked the authorities ‘to swiftly and thoroughly investigate the incident and bring to justice those responsible’.
The OSCE Special Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir, also expressed concerns about Huseynov’s beating.
‘I call on the authorities to conduct a swift and thorough investigation into this matter, and bring those responsible to justice’, he wrote on Twitter.