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Prominent Azerbaijani opposition figure to escalate hunger strike amid grave health concerns

29 November 2021
Saleh Rustamli. Photo via Sezgin Rustamli's Facebook page.

Saleh Rustamli, a prominent member of Azerbaijan’s opposition Popular Front Party, is threatening to escalate his hunger strike, demanding that authorities release him from prison. Doctors reportedly said that if he does so, it would be a serious and immediate danger to his well-being.

Rustamli was sentenced to seven years in prison in February 2019 on charges of money laundering. His lawyer, Bahruz Bayramov, told OC Media that as of 29 November, the 24th day of his client’s hunger strike, Rustamli’s health was deteriorating rapidly

‘I met with Saleh again today. No matter how much I asked him to stop his hunger strike, he said he would not give up’, Bayramov said. ‘He also said that he would start a dry hunger strike tomorrow.’ 

According to Bayramov, doctors informed him that if his client began a dry hunger strike — a hunger strike in which a person does not consume any liquids, including water — he would fall into a coma ‘within 12 to 15 hours’ and that the damage to his organs would be ‘irreversible.’

Sezgin Rustamli, Saleh Rustamli’s son, told OC Media that since his father began the hunger strike the family has not been able to contact him.

‘Telephone calls are not allowed’, he said. ‘We can only get information through a lawyer.’ He added that they were also informed that the elder Rustamli would not stop the hunger strike and that he ‘chooses death instead of being unjustly imprisoned’.

Rustamli started his hunger strike in protest of not being included on the amnesty list that covered an estimated 16,000 people. Additionally, he said is protesting the confiscation of his family’s property, and his detention for more than three years on charges of illegally transferring $420,000 to the Popular Front Party.


Rustamli’s detention has attracted the attention of former United States Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Kauzlarich, who tweeted saying that sanctions should be imposed on Azerbaijan for the arrest of the opposition figure.

Novella Jafaroglu, a member of the Human Rights Monitoring Group, an Azerbaijani human rights watchdog, had previously said to OC Media that it is not expected that any political prisoners would be released as a result of the mass amnesty.

However, Jafaroglu added that she believes that some political prisoners ‘will be named in the pardon decree expected on New Year's Eve after the amnesty’ and that ‘negotiations are underway in this direction’.

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