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Hunger striking Azerbaijani opposition leader ‘to stop drinking water’

16 September 2020
Tofig Yagublu in hospital while on hunger strike. Photo via Meydan TV.

Imprisoned Azerbaijani opposition leader Tofig Yagublu has said he intends to stop drinking water if his conviction is not overturned, his daughter reports. The Musavat Party member has so far spent 15 days on hunger strike.

His doctor, Adil Geybulla told news agency Turan that Yagublu’s life was in danger if he continued his hunger strike. 

‘At this stage, a gradual loss of consciousness may occur, after which the person falls into a coma’, he said, adding that Yagublu’s health was in critical condition. 

He said that if Yagublu collapsed, doctors may be forced to intervene.

One of Yagublu’s lawyers, Agil Layij, reported that Yagublu now had ‘difficulty expressing himself physiologically, has problems with his eyesight, and even has difficulty making a fist’. 

Layij said he had been repeatedly refused access to his client and was only able to see him on his ‘4th attempt’ on Wednesday.

Yagublu was sentenced for four years and three months on what rights groups have insisted are trumped up charges.

After being transferred from prison to a private clinic in Baku on Saturday, Yagublu has refused injections of nutrients.

[Read more on the reaction to Yagublu’s imprisonment: Azerbaijanis from Baku to Berlin are demanding freedom for Tofig Yagublu

After speaking with him by phone on Wednesday, Yagublu’s daughter, Nigar Hazi, recounted her father’s emotional words to her.

‘My child, I am dying. I have no strength left. My bones are aching very much. I do not know how much life left in me’, Hazi quoted him as saying.

‘Just know that I dedicated this fight of mine to M E Rasulzade [the founder of the Musavat Party and one of the founders of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918]’. 

‘In this way, I also express my support to the Belarusian people, who are fighting for democracy. The government must make a decision as soon as possible. Either they must set me free, or I will give up drinking water and wait for death to come soon.’

Hazi also reported that the Nizami District Court would forward an appeal against his conviction  to the Court of Appeals on Thursday.

‘I hope they will not set the court date on the day of his death’, she wrote. 

Ali Ahmadov, vice prime minister and Executive Secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, responded on Wednesday by accusing a ‘radical wing of the opposition’ of using Yagublu’s hunger strike to get out of ‘the political coma they are in’. 

‘As for Tofig Yagublu's dissatisfaction with the verdict, there are certain legal procedures to resolve it. It is very difficult to consider the tactic of overcoming the law at the expense of health the right choice’, he said. 

A ‘prisoner of conscience’ 

Yagublu — who has been declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International — was detained on 22 March and charged with attacking a married couple with a screwdriver following a car accident in Baku. 

Several days before his arrest, President Ilham Aliyev announced that dissidents would be detained and, if necessary, isolated during the national quarantine.

Yagublu’s version of events differed significantly. ‘My parked car was demonstratively hit [by another car], and then they [the people in the other car] attacked me’, he wrote on Facebook shortly before his arrest. 

One of his lawyers, Elchin Sadigov, told OC Media following the verdict that his arrest was illegal. ‘He must be released immediately’, Sadigov said. 

Yagublu went on a hunger strike on 2 September after judge Nariman Mehdiyev interrupted his closing remarks to the court several times before cutting him off entirely. 

A day later, after the Nizami District Court sentenced him to four years and three months in prison on charges of hooliganism, he said he would remain on hunger strike until he died or was released.

[Read more on OC Media: Imprisoned Azerbaijani opposition leader on ‘hunger strike until death’]

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