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Two men detained following Azerbaijan protest go on hunger strike

19 August 2020
Mehdi Ibrahimov (left) and Ismayil Hasanov. Images via Azadlig.

Two men have gone on hunger strike in Azerbaijan over what they say is their wrongful arrest following a 14–15 July rally in support of the army.

Ismayil Hasanov, a member of the opposition Popular Front Party, went on a hunger strike on Monday, according to the party.

Emil Salim, chair of the party’s youth wing, told OC Media that Hasanov had also stopped taking fluids.

He joined Mehdi Ibrahimov, who is a member of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, who went on a hunger strike a week earlier on 10 August. 

Hasanov was detained on 19 July, several days after the July protest, in which thousands rallied in central Baku calling on the authorities to escalate the conflict with Armenia. 

Before the police dispersed the protest, a group of demonstrators briefly occupied the parliament building.

[Read more on OC Media: Thousands of pro-war protesters rally in Azerbaijan]

Hasanov, along with dozens of other members of the Popular Front Party, was accused of damaging property inside parliament, organising and participating in an event that violated public order, and disobeying police. 

He was sentenced to three months of administrative detention.

According to Azadlig, Hasanov told his lawyer that he started the hunger strike on Sunday and informed the prison’s management in writing. 

Hasanov told his lawyer that the reason he went on a hunger strike was his involvement in an unjust investigation, his arrest, and a ban on calls to his relatives. 

Mehdi Ibragimov went on hunger strikes with the same demands, his brother, Turan Ibrahimov, told news agency Turan on Monday.

The Ombudsman’s Apparatus also confirmed his hunger strike after visiting the detainees in prison.

While Ibrahimov is a member of the ruling party New Azerbaijan, he is the son of Mammad Ibrahim, a member of the ruling praesidium of the opposition Popular Front Party. Several of his relatives have said that Ibrahimov was detained because of the political activities of his father, who is also currently in custody for his alleged participation in the rally.

[Read on OC Media: Four Azerbaijani opposition Popular Front Party leaders arrested]

Ibrahimov was detained on 15 July after his participation in the rally and was accused of violating the quarantine regime and spreading COVID-19 during the protest. His father, Mammad Ibrahim, denied that his son was infected with the coronavirus. 

If convicted, he could face up to three years in prison. 

‘The rights of the detainees are being violated’

Opposition block the National Council of Democratic Forces reported that during the 14–15 rally, dozens of Popular Front Party members were detained. 

‘Seventeen of them have been charged with serious crimes and remanded in custody. Eighteen activists were administratively sentenced to 30 days in prison’, they stated.

The National Council said that the procedural rights of all these people had been violated.

‘None of them were provided with the right to contact their families or to meet with a lawyer. As a result, the condition and location of the detainees remained unclear for weeks’, they said.

The National Council also reported that the detainees were tortured. Because of their injuries, they said they were not brought to the Court of Appeals or given access to their lawyers.

A new wave of arrests of members of the opposition started after a speech by President Ilham Aliyev on 15 July in which he said the country needed to ‘resolve the issue of the fifth column’, referring to the opposition. 

[Read more on OC Media: Azerbaijani opposition hit with new arrests following Aliyev speech]

International rights groups including Amnesty International, several EU Parliamentarians, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe have all condemned a recent government crackdown against the opposition. 

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