Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, an imprisoned social activist on hunger strike, has had his pre-trial detention extended for two months amid domestic and international concern for his deteriorating health condition.
On Thursday, the Khatai District Court of Baku extended Hajiyev’s detention until 28 April.
Hajiyev, who has been on hunger strike for 47 days, was detained on 9 December on charges of hooliganism and contempt of court; he was due to be released on 28 February.
One of his lawyers, Shahla Humbatova, said the court extended his prison sentence to prevent him from ‘diverting the investigation, running away from the country, putting pressure on witnesses, and falsifying evidence’.
‘He has been on hunger strike for 46 days […] he lost 20 kilogrammes’, Humbatova told Turan. ‘He looks very bad, faints often, and complains of headaches’.
Hajiyev was accused of hooliganism and contempt of court in October after engaging in a verbal altercation with Ulviyya Alovlu, a TV anchor with whom he was embroiled in a defamation case.
His detention has been widely criticised by local and international rights groups as being politically motivated.
On 20 February, the police dispersed a group of activists protesting in front of the Baku Court of Appeals against the court’s decision to uphold Hajiyev’s detention until 28 February.
[Read more on OC Media: Azerbaijani activists arrested at pro-Hajiyev protest]
Two board members of the Democracy 1918 movement — Afieddin Mammadov and Samir Sultanov — were sentenced to 30 days of administrative arrest on charges of disobeying police.
The latest court ruling to extend Hajiyev’s sentence drew criticism from international figures, including two US senators.
Samantha Power, the head of USAID, demanded his release, stating that he was detained on charges ‘widely known to be politically motivated’.
Azerbaijani democracy activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev has been detained since December on charges that are widely known to be politically motivated. Hajiyev is on a hunger strike and his health is rapidly deteriorating. He must be released.
— Samantha Power (@PowerUSAID) February 23, 2023
Hillary Clinton, former US secretary of state and Democratic Party candidate in the 2016 presidential race, also expressed concern for his health condition and similarly described his detention as ‘politically-motivated’.
I add my voice to the chorus of people and institutions expressing concern for Azerbaijani activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev. He's on hunger strike to protest his detention since December on politically-motivated charges, and his condition is deteriorating. The world is watching.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 23, 2023