Former political prisoners, journalists, human rights defenders condemn arrest of Mehman Aliyev

Statement of The Working Group on Unified List of Political Prisoners on the Detention of Mehman Aliyev and the Suspension of Turan News Agency’s Activities

The Working Group on Unified List of Political Prisoners is dismayed by the news of the detention of the director of Turan News Agency, Mehman Aliyev, and the suspension of the only remaining independent news media in Azerbaijan - Turan News Agency.

Mehman Aliyev was arrested on spurious charges of tax evasion, abuse of power, and illegal entrepreneurship. He remains in pre-trial detention until November 7, 2017, detained by the Yasamal District Court, on the request of the Department for Investigation of Tax Crimes of the Tax Ministry on August 25, 2017. Additionally, the bank accounts of the agency are frozen due to the Tax Ministry’s initiatation of the the criminal case against the media outlet, thus making it impossible for Turan News Agency to to operate and provide its indispensable service to Azerbaijani society. The suspension of Turan News Activity and arrest of Mehman Aliyev on trumped up charges limis free speech and has further damaged the flow of unbiased and essential information to both the local and the international communities.

“The arrest of Mehman Aliyev is yet another demonstration of the Azerbaijani government’s intention to continue its repressive policies regarding human rights and freedoms.”

Mehman Aliyev joins the growing number of political prisoners in the country: Azerbaijan has at least 158 political prisoners confirmed by the Working Group, including ten journalists and bloggers.

The Working Group condemns the repressive policies of the Azerbaijani Government and calls upon the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the European Union, the World Bank, and other international political and economic organizations to stop ignoring the ongoing oppression of civil society in Azerbaijan. We demand that international organizations do not use the human rights and democracy agenda as a bargaining chip in their negotiations with the Azerbaijani government on other matters.

The Working Group calls for appropriate actions from the international community in response to the Azerbaijani government's unwillingness to rescind from its repressive policies against freedom of speech and human rights.

The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly and Committee of Ministers must stop delaying discussions on the matter and to start acting on the issue of political prisoners, as their negligence encourages the repressive regime in Azerbaijan to further shrink the space for civil society.

“We call upon the United States and European Union countries to introduce targeted sanctions against perpetrators of human rights abuses in Azerbaijan.”

We call upon the international financial institutions to stop their support to local and international economic projects of the Azerbaijani government unless the real civil society is allowed to operate in Azerbaijan. The financial institutions must demand that the Azerbaijani government deliver on its commitments to human rights and freedoms, release political prisoners, and stop harassment of civil society before supporting the government’s economic projects.

Note: The Working Group on Unified List of Political Prisoners unites a group of former political prisoners, journalists, human rights defenders, including Intigam Aliyev, Rasul Jafarov, Anar Mammadli, Khadija Ismayilova, Asabali Mustafayev, Fariz Namazli, Khalid Bagirov, Shahvalad Chobanoglu, Rovshan Hajibeyli and Samir Kazimli. The Group studies the cases of political prisoners, prepares and updates reports on Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan

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