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Imprisoned opposition leader Tofig Yagublu hospitalised over hunger strike

14 September 2020
Tofig Yagublu. Image via Nigar Hezi.

Convicted Azerbaijani opposition leader Tofig Yagublu has been moved to a private hospital in Baku after falling into critical condition.

The Musavat party member, who is on his 13th day of hunger strike, was delivered from prison to the private City Hospital in Baku on Saturday. 

His daughter, Nigar Hazi, reported on Sunday that her father had been transferred to intensive care. On Monday, she said he had been returned to an ordinary ward and that two representatives of the Human Rights Commissioner had visited him. 

Yagublu was transferred after being examined by Doctor Adil Geybulla, who said his condition was critical. 

Hazi noted that the authorities only agreed after an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to take urgent interim measures. 

His lawyers appealed on Saturday for the court to order his transfer to a private clinic citing a danger he may fall into a coma. 

One of his lawyers, Agil Layij, reported on Saturday that the authorities had lied to the ECHR in response to their appeal by stating that Yagublu started his hunger strike only on 7 September and that he had lost around 2 kilogrammes.

According to Hazi, her father has lost almost 10 kilogrammes since starting his hunger strike.

Geybulla told news agency Turan on Monday that Yagublu was being treated with heart medication and was not being given nutrients as he was refusing food. He added that his health was still at risk.

Yagublu’s prosecution has resonated both internationally and inside Azerbaijan, with several activists going on hunger strike in solidarity. Several demonstrations have been held in Baku calling for his release, which were dispersed by police.

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.

A demonstration in Baku calling for Yagublu’s release. Photo: Ramin Deko.

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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