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Baku court sentences man to 5 years for rape of teenage activist

13 October 2022
Sanay Yaghmur (left) with two other activists protesting outside the Baku Court of Grave Crimes on 29 June. The banner reads: ‘we demand justice’.

The Baku Criminal Court has sentenced Asgar Aghazade, aged 30, to five years in prison for raping his cousin, activist Sanay Yaghmur, when she was 17 years old. 

Wednesday’s verdict comes two years after the incident, following a prolonged battle by the victim and her family for the authorities to take action.

Sanay’s mother, writer Zumrud Yaghmur, welcomed Aghazade’s conviction while bemoaning the fact he was given the minimum possible sentence.

‘Although we feel that it is not enough, in the end, Sanay’s victory will embolden girls and women who are suffering and cannot make their voices heard in Azerbaijan’, she told OC Media.

Under Azerbaijani law, the rape of a minor is punishable by 5–10 years in prison. Prosecutors had called for Aghazade to be given seven years.

Sanay’s lawyer, Zibeyda Sadigova, also noted that the activist was the target of verbal abuse during proceedings.

‘During the trial… the accused repeatedly insulted us in a very serious way. We raised this issue using the appropriate channels, but the court did not take any action’, she told OC Media.

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[Read more on OC Media: Rape suspect accused of hacking computer and harassing victim during trial]

Zumrud Yaghmur and Zibeyda Sadigova embrace after the verdict was announced. Photo: Gulnara Mehdiyeva.

Yaghmur first complained to the police in August 2020, three days after she was raped. However, the Prosecutor’s Office declined to press charges for over a year, until in October 2021 a post by Yaghmur describing the rape and the authorities’ inaction was widely spread. 

Following the post, the activist’s mother was informed that her case was being reconsidered by the Prosecutor General. 

Sanay’s mother told OC Media that the Azerbaijani authorities had continued to deliberately prolong the process, stating that the trial was ‘repeatedly extended for meaningless reasons despite it being proven with clear evidence.’ 

‘All these steps were taken to protect the criminal, Asgar Aghayev’. 

‘I am a writer and Sanay is a feminist activist. This firstly led the authorities to sentence [Aghazade] to the minimum sentence as an act of revenge.’

Aghazade pleaded not guilty at trial, saying that Yaghmur’s accusations were baseless and accusing her of slander. His mother, Sureyya Aghayeva, also claimed that forensic evidence proved that the accusations against her son were false.

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