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Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court upholds 10-year ‘drug conviction’ for activist

23 June 2017
Bayram Mammadov

Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of Azerbaijani activist Bayram Mammadov, who was arrested on drug charges after painting controversial graffiti on a statue of Heydar Aliyev in Baku. Mammadov has began a hunger strike, Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayil has reported.

Mammadov intends to appeal his conviction to the European Court of Human Rights, Caucasian Knot reported.

‘We have already sent a complaint to the Strasbourg Court about the arrest, which has been accepted, and now we will send a statement on the nature of the criminal case’, Caucasian Knot quoted Mammadov’s lawyer Elchin Sadigov as saying after the 20 June ruling.

According to Sadigov, several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, including the prohibition on torture, the right to liberty and security, and the right to a fair trial, as well as freedom of expression, were violated in Mammadov’s case.

Mammadov was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison on charges of ‘drug trafficking’, which he claims is a bogus charge.

‘Mammadov has announced that he is starting a hunger strike, as a protest against the poor conditions of his arrest’, Ismayil wrote on her facebook profile.

According to her, since being transferred to the Prison #13, Mammadov has been placed in a bed next to a toilet ‘used by the whole barracks’. Despite promises, he has not been moved, and free beds are being sold to other prisoners, Ismayil added.

‘Mammadov told his family over the phone that he will submit a letter announcing the hunger strike today, and start immediately.

Detention and international response

Mammadov and his fellow activist, Giyas Ibrahimov, were arrested on 10 May 2016, after painting controversial graffiti the night before ‘Flower Day’. Flower Day is dedicated to the birthday of Heydar Aliyev, the late national leader and father of the country’s current president, Ilham Aliyev. Last year was the 90th anniversary of his birth.

The activists had painted graffiti on a statue of Heydar Aliyev which read ‘happy slaves day’ in Azerbaijani. On the other side of the pedestal, another inscription read: ‘Fuck the system’!

Despite the drug trafficking charges, international rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), consider Ibrahimov and Mammadov prisoners of conscience, and believe that the drug charges against them were fabricated with the sole purpose of punishing them for their political activities.

According to HRW’ annual report, the Azerbaijani government has ‘continued its thorough crackdown on dissenting voices throughout 2016, leaving a wide gap in Azerbaijan’s once vibrant independent civil society’.

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