Private messages and intimate images and videos have been leaked from the accounts of Azerbaijani activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, who remains on hunger strike against his imprisonment.
On 24 February, private materials including messages with women, including other activists, selfies sent in these chats, nude photographs, and intimate videos were published in a Telegram channel that appeared to have been created for that purpose.
It came on the same day that Hajiyev’s pre-trial detention was extended by two months, despite local and international calls for his release. At the time of writing, Hajiyev has been on hunger strike for 50 days.
[Read more: Baku court extends detention of hunger-striking activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev]
Many opposition activists blamed the Azerbaijani government for the leak, decrying the government’s ‘unforgivable’ interference in the private life of both Hajiyev, and the others present in the published materials.
‘As if it was not enough that the state violated Bakhtiyar Hajiyev’s right to freedom and security, and the right to a fair trial, it is now violating his right to privacy’, said Anar Mammadli, a human rights activist and head of the Centre for Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies, an Azerbaijani democracy watchdog.
‘The state participates in this process together with its police, prosecutor, judge and judiciary. It is a crime for the state to use its administrative resources to detain Bakhtiyar, subject him to moral and psychological pressure, and finally distribute his intimate photos’, said Mammadli.
Gulnara Mehdiyeva, an Azerbaijani women’s rights activist, wrote on Facebook that the government was ‘endangering the lives of many women’ in its attempt to intimidate a political opponent.
‘The government of Azerbaijan is so dirty that while trying to “overthrow” its opponent, it also intends to destroy the lives of many women at the same time. For this government, the life and blood of its citizens have no value’, wrote Mehdiyeva.
‘Women are just a tool for the government’, added the activist. ‘The issue is not “personal life”, “sex”, or “intimacy”, the issue is that many women are in danger as a result of political revenge.’
[Read more: Opinion | In Azerbaijan sex is a weapon]
The day after the leak, Hajiyev’s mother, Solida Movlayeva, visited him at the penitentiary treatment centre.
Movlayeva told Turan that Hajiyev’s health condition was very serious, but that Hajiyev had refused her requests to stop his hunger strike.
‘Bakhtiyar said that the attitude towards him in the treatment facility was not good,’ said Movlayeva. ‘His colour was pale, his hands were numb, he could not stand, and he was extremely thin. My son’s condition breaks my heart as a mother.’
Last week, Samantha Power, the head of USAID, and Hilary Clinton, the former US secretary of state and Democratic Party candidate in the 2016 presidential race, added to the calls to release Hajiyev.
‘He’s on hunger strike to protest his detention since December on politically-motivated charges, and his condition is deteriorating. The world is watching’, wrote Clinton.