The General Prosecutor's Office has launched a criminal case against a son of the main opposition Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA) top member, as he is accused of violating quarantine regime initiated to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country.
Mehdi Ibrahimov was detained on 15 July, a day after he attended a demonstration held in support of the army in Baku on 14 July. He was among those who broke into the parliament building, his father Mammad Ibrahim, known as an advisor to the chairman of PFPA, told Turan news agency.
“But he stood aside… He was detained in the morning of 15 July, when the people were being dispersed, and brought to the 37th Khatai police station,” Turan cited Ibrahim as saying on Wednesday.
For two days, Ibrahim did not go to the police station, believing that since his son was a member of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP), and because the rally was in support of the state, he would be released soon.
“On the third day, I learned that out of 119 detained 101 were released but Mehdi was left among the detainees because he was my son,” he said.
Mehdi was interrogated about his father and his membership in YAP, while his father is a top member in the main opposition party of the country.
On Tuesday, a criminal case was opened against Mehdi. He is accused of violating the quarantine regime and took to the street while allegedly having tested tested positive for COVID-19.
Ibrahim denies the allegations that his son was sick.
“If he was sick and in quarantine, how was he given SMS permission to leave the house on 14 July and the previous days? Why was he kept among others in police custody?” Ibrahim told Turan News Agency.
Quarantine regulations have been in effect in Azerbaijan since March 24. Since June 21, the quarantine has been tightened in Baku and some parts of the country.
During the first seven days of the incident, the police looked through all videos, interrogated all witnesses and did not find any evidence of Mehdi's presence among the protesters who broke into the parliament building or involved in other illegal actions that night, Ibrahim added.
If found guilty, Mehdi might be punished by a fine of 2,500 to 5,000 AZN, or imprisoned for up to 3 years.
Ibrahim labeled the accusations raised against his son “absurd, ridiculous and fabricated.”
“Today, I was told that my son has a fever,” Ibrahim told RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service on Wednesday.
Neither the Interior Ministry, the Prosecutor General's Office nor the Ministry of Health have commented on the incident.
Prosecutor General's Office and the Interior Ministry said in joint statement that a criminal case has been launched into the 14 July demonstration. Riot police were summoned to the scene to disperse the protesters with water cannons and tear gas.
The authorities declined to mention how many people were detained during the incident. Human rights activists estimate that a total of nearly 70-100 people were detained on 14-15 July. Some of those detained were later released. More than 20 detainees are said to be members of the PFPA. About 10 were interrogated.
On 15 July, President Ilham Aliyev blamed the PFPA for provoking the demonstrators in his speech at a cabinet meeting.
“As I was told, yesterday (July 14) some opposition groups, including representatives of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, infiltrated the crowd and tried to incite people to take part in illegal actions,” Aliyev said. The PFPA refuted the president's statement.
In his latest speech delivered on Tuesday, Aliyev accused the members of the PFPA of trying to illegally power illegally.
Aliyev's comment came a day after the U.S. State Department urged the government not to use COVID-19 to silence political opponents and civil society in Azerbaijan.