Sabuhi Salimov, a member of the opposition Islamic Party, has died of a heart attack in court following a 53-day hunger strike in protest against his detention.
Salimov died on 2 March, reportedly shortly after the Baku Court of Appeal upheld his conviction.
Salimov was detained by Azerbaijan’s State Security Service in October 2021. On 11 November 2022, he was sentenced to 17 years in prison on charges of treason.
Human rights defenders report that Salimov was found guilty of spying on behalf of Iran’s special services and acting on the instructions of the leaders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, a branch of the Iranian armed forces tasked with defending Iran’s Islamic system.
His family told Vocie of America that Salimov had been on hunger strike for 53 days, and on dry hunger strike for the last seven. They added that he had stopped his protest on 1 March as a result of serious health issues.
‘Sabuhi had a heart operation a few years ago. But his death was caused by an unjust court decision’, one member of his family said.
‘The reason for Sabuhi's arrest was that he burned the flag of Israel, asked for freedom for Jerusalem and Karabakh, and held remembrance events for imams at his home’, said the unnamed relative. ‘He protested the injustice of the courts in this country with his hunger strike at the cost of his life.’
A spokesperson for the Muslim Unity Movement, a movement closely allied with the Islamic Party, told Turan that Salimov began his hunger strike in protest against his charges, and that he died after the court announced that it would uphold the previous decision.
‘Sabuhi shouted, protested, and claimed that the decision had been “ordered [from above]”. In this situation, he had a heart attack and died behind bars in the courtroom’, said the spokesperson.
The authorities have not commented on the case.