On May 8, 2023, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev signed an Amnesty Order that granted pardons to 801 convicts, making it the largest act of amnesty adopted in the history of Azerbaijan.
The Amnesty Order was signed on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of ex-president Heydar Aliyev, and it granted amnesties to 463 persons who were released from imprisonment, 220 persons who were released from the unserved half of the imprisonment sentence, and 118 persons who were released from other punishments not related to deprivation of liberty (restriction of liberty, correctional works, fines, and persons sentenced to conditional sentences).
Among those pardoned were Ali Aliyev, the chairman of the Citizen and Development Party (VIP), and journalist Elchin Mammad, who are recognized as political prisoners by human rights organizations.
Rafig Bayramov, former Deputy Minister of Culture, who was sentenced to 8 years in prison on August 17, 2021, for abuse of power, embezzlement, and forgery, was also released from prison. Bayramov’s property was also confiscated in addition to his prison sentence.
Human rights defenders expressed different reactions to the order.
Elshan Hasanov, head of the Monitoring Center for Political Prisoners, stated that he was dissatisfied with the amnesty order as it did not address the issue of political prisoners. Their list contained the names of 180 prisoners, including Elchin Amiraslanov, who has been a prisoner for over 25 years and has never violated internal rules, and religious people who have been in prison for years.
According to Hasanov, the government’s intention against human rights is clear, and their list of political prisoners was not presented to the Amnesty Commission formed by the government as it does not include the names of life prisoners or political prisoners.
On the other hand, Rasul Jafarov, Chairman of the Baku Human Rights Club, positively assessed the order. Jafarov stated that as a result of the order covering 801 people, 463 prisoners were released directly, and the unserved part of the sentence of 220 people was reduced to half. The Baku Human Rights Club submitted a list of 50 people to the Amnesty Commission, and 10 prisoners from the list were pardoned, and 9 were released directly. However, the sentence of Ismayil Huseynov, who was arrested for the “Tartar case,” was reduced by half.