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Azerbaijani Shiite activist charged with drug trafficking

28 November 2022
Shahin Gadirov. Image via Voice of America.

An Azerbaijani member of the Muslim Unity Movement has been detained on four months pre-trial detention facing drug charges.

Shahin Gadirov was reportedly detained by plainclothes police officers on his way home from work on 23 November. He was charged with drug trafficking on Sunday and denied bail by the court.

The Muslim Unity Movement has decried Gadirov’s arrest, calling it a ‘provocation’ against the movement and part of mounting pressure on their group.

With Gadirov’s arrest, nine of the movement’s members are currently in prison, including its chair Taleh Baghirzade.

On 27 November, Baghirzade’s wife, Leila Ismayilzade, reported that the Shiite cleric had begun a hunger strike in protest against ‘insults’ he was subjected to in prison. 

‘After seven years of imprisonment, on Saturday, 26 November, he was transferred from Gobustan Closed Prison to Penitentiary No. 12’, Ismayilzade told Voice of America. ‘The deputy head of the enterprise insulted his honour and zeal. That’s why Taleh started a civil hunger strike as a protest.’

Baghirzade was previously on hunger strike earlier this year to protest the arrest and alleged mistreatment of other members of his organisation.

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At the time, Razi Abbasov, a member of the movement arrested in May on drug charges, claimed that he was tortured by police officers. During his trial, five more members of the group were detained outside the hearing.

[Read more on OC Media: Hunger strike of Azerbaijani religious leader continues]

Baghirzade is currently serving a 20-year sentence on charges of inciting hatred and plotting to overthrow the government. He was arrested following the violent police raids on Baku’s Nardaran neighbourhood in which seven people, including two police officers, were killed in 2015.

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