A private video reportedly featuring the daughter of Azerbaijani opposition leader Jamil Hasanli has been leaked on social media, the latest in a spate of sex-tapes targetting opposition figures.
Hasanli is the chair of the National Council of Democratic Forces and stood as the main opposition candidate in the 2013 presidential elections, with the official results placing him in second with 5.5% of the vote.
This is the fourth such incident over the past month, with the sister of a critical blogger, and feminist activists and writers also being targetted.
In a post on Facebook on Sunday, Hasanli blamed the security services and president Ilham Aliyev personally for the leak, indicating that the release was a means to apply political pressure on him.
‘My daughter, Gunel Hasanli, is 38 years old and has been divorced for more than 10 years. She can have her own personal life and remarry. No one, including me, can forbid it. There is nothing unusual here,’ Hasanli wrote.
‘It is immoral to intrude on the privacy of others, to mobilise the security services of the state to use it as a means of political blackmail.’
Hasanli claimed this was a practice going back decades, citing a criminal case being filed against Aliyev’s father, former president Heydar Aliyev, for the same form of attacks while he was still working for the KGB. It was not possible to verify this claim.
‘Ilham Aliyev has unreasonable hopes that he will deter us from politics in such immoral ways. How my daughter builds and lives her personal life is her own business, it has nothing to do with the state’, stated Hasanli.
OC Media was unable to contact Gunel Hasanli for comment. Her family told the media that she was shocked by the circumstances.
‘The state must investigate’
Human rights lawyer and feminist activist Zhala Bayramova condemend the government’s reaction to the leak.
She accused them of violating Article 32 of the Constitution of Azerbaijan, as well as Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protect the right to privacy.
Bayramova told OC Media that the state accusing victims filming and distributing the videos themselves as opposed to investigating the leaks was a violation in itself.
‘There is a procedural obligation, if an incident occurs, the state must investigate it effectively. Experience shows that when the victim is a member of civil society, the state investigates such cases late’, said Bayramova.
She said that any information, photo, or video spread on the internet already provided a legal obligation for law enforcement agencies to immediately initiate a criminal case and investigate the matter.
‘Article 156 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan criminalises all acts of intrusion into private life. In fact, the government’s deliberate delay in doing so has allowed the videos to remain on the internet and circulate for a longer period of time’, Bayramova said.
She said it should be considered an aggravating circumstance when such crimes are committed by officials.
‘Experience has shown that prior to this incident, law enforcement agencies did not take any action not only in cases involving political opponents, but also when personal information of other citizens was disseminated, especially on Instagram and Telegram’, said Bayramova.
Bayramova observed that instead of investigating cases, law enforcement agencies often blame and insult the victims. When a victim is queer, they have even encouraged the leaking of personal materials.
‘In fact, this shows that when it comes to punishing opponents, law enforcement agencies maintain platforms to disseminate videos of private lives in a way that allows past crimes to continue’, concluded Bayramova.