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Detained opposition activists ‘tortured’ in Azerbaijan

30 April 2020
Popular Front Party leader Ali Karimli (centre) on his way to a protest on 19 October with Niyameddin Ahmadov to his left. Photo: Turan.

Two members of the opposition Popular Front Party who were detained on quarantine violation charges have reportedly been tortured while in detention. 

The party stated on Sunday that Niyameddin Ahmadov, the bodyguard of party leader Ali Karimli, was taken from his cell to an unknown location on 28 April where he was tortured for 12 hours.

Ahmadov was detained on 16 April and given 30 days of administrative detention on charges of quarantine violation and disobeying police. 

According to the party, Ahmadov told relatives that officers put a sack over his head and took him from the detention centre before insulting and torturing him.

The party said that officers asked him to testify that he had received money from Karimli. According to them, Ahmadov is currently being held in solitary confinement.

‘There is no doubt that the law enforcement agencies on the instructions of [Azerbaijani President] Ilham Aliyev, intending to obtain such statements against Ali Karimli, decided to carry out a plan to arrest him’, the party stated. 

The Interior Ministry denied the allegations to Meydan TV

Ahmadov is the second member of the Popular Front Party to claim to have been tortured in detention during the pandemic.

Arif Babayev was detained on 22 April for 30 days for allegedly posting prohibited information online. 

His brother, Elhan Babayev, told Meydan TV on 24 April that Arif was beaten by Elnur Aliyev, the head of the police unit in Surakhani township of Baku, for Babayev’s supportive posts of Ali Karimli. 

According to him, the pressure against Babayev continued after he was transferred to the Binagadi Prison. 

‘In prison, under pressure, he was forced to confess his “guilt” on camera and say he would not make political calls in the future’, Elhan Babayev said. 

In a report on 29 April, Amnesty International said the Azerbaijani government had ‘stepped up the crackdown on dissent using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse.’ 

‘President Ilham Aliyev announced “new rules” for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, including “isolating” and “clearing” Azerbaijan’s already fragmented political opposition. High-profile arrests of political and civil rights activists under spurious charges have followed the president’s pronouncement’, the report said.

[Read more: Amnesty International questions Caucasus governments’ response to pandemic] 

In a speech delivered on 19 March, President Aliyev called any opposition group that did not enter ‘into dialogue’ with the authorities, ‘traitors and corrupt representatives of a fifth column’. He warned that the government may need to ‘clean’ them out. 

More than 20 opposition activists have since been arrested. 

[Read more on OC Media: Azerbaijan opposition party claims nearly a dozen members arrested in last two weeks]

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