Case History: Anar Mammadli
On 17 March 2016, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, issued a presidential pardon for 148 prisoners, among them human rights defender Anar Mamadli.
Anar Mammadli is chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS), an organisation that has been carrying out independent election monitoring in Azerbaijan since 2001, including independent observations of the recent Presidential elections on 9 October 2013, for which it reported widespread irregularities and fraud during balloting and vote counting.
On 17 March 2016, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, issued a presidential pardon for 148 prisoners, among them human rights defenders Anar Mamadli, Rasul Jafarov and Hilal Mamadov. The same morning, the Baku Court of Appeals converted the six year prison sentence of journalist Rauf Mirkadyrov to a five year suspended sentence, thus effectively releasing him from custody.
Anar Mammadli is chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS), an organisation that has been carrying out independent election monitoring in Azerbaijan since 2001. On 26 May 2014 he had been found guiltyof conducting illegal business, abuse of office and tax evasion. On 26 August 2015, the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan upheld the sentence of five and a half years in prison against him.
Rasul Jafarov is the Head of the Human Rights Club, an organisation established in December 2010 to protect human rights and freedoms in Azerbaijan. He organised the 'Art for Democracy' and 'Sing for Democracy' campaigns in the context of the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku in 2012 to draw international attention to the government’s crackdown on civil society. On 16 February 2016, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Azerbaijan dismissed in the final instance the appeal submitted by human rights defender Mr Rasul Jafarov against the ruling on his conviction for illegal entrepreneurship, abuse of authority, forgery and embezzlement.
Hilal Mamedov is a human rights defender and a consultant with the Institute for Democracy and Peace and editor in chief of Tolishi Sado (Talysh Voice), the only newspaper in the Talysh minority language. Hilal Mamedov was sentenced to five years imprisonment on 27 September 2013 on charges of selling drugs, high treason including espionage for Iran, and incitement to national, racial, social and religious hatred and hostility. He has repeatedly denied the charges, and international observers, including Front Line Defenders, remarked that the trial was marred by many violations of fair trial standards.
Front Line Defenders welcomes the releases and calls on the Azeri authorities to release human rights defenders Khadija Ismailova and Intigam Aliyev who remain in prison in retaliation for their peaceful and legitimate human rights work.
On 26 August 2015, the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan upheld the sentence of five and a half years in prison against human rights defender Mr Anar Mammadli.
Anar Mammadli is chairman of the Baku-based Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS), and a board member of the European Platform for Democratic Elections(EPDE). The EMDS has been carrying out independent election monitoring in Azerbaijan since 2001, including independent observations of the Presidential elections on 9 October 2013. It reported widespread irregularities and fraud during balloting and vote counting. In 2014 he was the recipient of an international Vaclav Havel award.
On 26 August 2015, the Supreme Court rejected Anar Mammadli's appeal against the five and a half years prison sentence handed down to him by the Baku Court of Grave Crimes. On 26 May 2014 he had been found guilty of conducting illegal business, abuse of office and tax evasion.
As the decision of the Supreme Court cannot be challenged at national level, Anar Mammadli's lawyers intend to submit an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. A previous appeal regarding the unlawful arrest of the human rights defender is currently under consideration by the European Court.
Anar Mammadli was detained on 17 December 2013, following his arrest and interrogation on 16 December in relation to an investigation into EMDS on suspicion of tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of office. In the context of the investigation, which began in late October 2013, the authorities imposed a travel ban on Anar Mammadli and four other staff members of EMDS, raided EMDS offices, and confiscated all print materials, reports and financial documents, as well as two computers.
On 27 April 2015, a coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations published the following statement expressing their "deepest disappointment" over what they consider to be a "weak" response by the European External Action Service to the persecution of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan.
Joint Open letter on the European Union position on Azerbaijan
Dear High Representative/Vice-President,
We the undersigned Non-Governmental Organisations wish to express our deepest disappointment with regards to the weak positioning of the European External Action Service in reaction to the two recent convictions of human rights defenders Mr. Rasul Jafarov and Mr. Intigam Aliyev.
On 16 April, the Baku Grave Crimes Court handed down a six and a half year jail sentence to Mr. Rasul Jafarov. Mr. Jafarov actively participated in the “Sing for Democracy” and the “Art for Democracy” movements ahead of the Eurovision song contest in Baku in May 2012, and was planning a campaign called “Sports for Human Rights” prior to the European Olympic Games which will take place in Baku in June 2015. Mr. Jafarov has been arbitrarily detained since August 2014 on multiple charges. The sham trial against this human rights defender was based on trumped-up charges, lacked openness and transparency. International trial observers repeatedly noted that no evidence of Mr. Jafarov’s guilt was presented during the proceedings. The “victims” testified that they incurred no prejudice and denied considering themselves as victims.
Mr. Jafarov was also heading the “Human Rights Club” established in December 2010. Despite repeated attempts to register his NGO with the Azeri government, registration was repeatedly refused by the authorities. Constant refusal to register NGOs that are critical of the regime is a commonly used method of repression by the Azeri authorities. Unregistered organisations are barred from opening a bank account, working and receiving funding legally. Thus, any funding is considered as the NGO leaders' personal and any NGO activity is seen as illegal entrepreneurship. The authorities use this very convenient repressive legal framework to prosecute activists and human rights defenders for tax evasion and thus silence critical voices.
On 22 April, another prominent human rights defender and renowned lawyer, Mr. Intigam Aliyev, was sentenced to seven and a half year of prison. Mr. Aliyev was arrested on 8 August 2014 and subsequently charged with illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion, service forgery, misappropriation and abuse of office. Mr. Intigam Aliyev represented several dozens of applicants before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. He has been awarded the Homo Homini Award by the Czech human rights organisation People in Need and Andrei Sakharov’s Freedom Award by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
The trial of Mr. Intigam Aliyev was marred with severe and continued violations as documented by the international observers present at the hearings. The small size of the court room at the initial hearings did not allow international observers, NGOs and representatives of foreign embassies to attend. Mr. Aliyev was transferred to the court room in handcuffs and he was held in a metal cage during the proceedings. Court dismissed several motions by the defense, including replacing pre-trial detention with house arrest or releasing him on bail. The decision on the motion submitted by the defense for the 10 March 2015 hearing to release 101 documents seized by the police was postponed for “further consideration”. These documents, among others, contain evidence that Mr. Intigam Aliyev did register the grants he received with the Azerbaijan Ministry of Justice.
A few weeks before the May Eastern Partnership Riga Summit and the June European Olympic Games in Baku, these sentences epitomize the endless cycle of repression underway in Azerbaijan. It is characterised by the suffocation of the independent civil society and media through systematic harassment and account freezing and the continuing arbitrarily detention of other human rights defenders, including Leyla Yunus, Arif Yunusov, Khadija Ismayilova, Anar Mammadli, Hilal Mammadov and Rauf Mirqadirov. On 1st April, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks stressed that the Rasul Jafarov case was part of “a clear pattern of repression in Azerbaijan against those expressing dissent or criticism of the authorities”.
In this context, our organisations express their profound disappointment with the mild reactions of the European External Action Service following Mr. Jafarov's and Mr. Aliev's condemnations. On 16 April, the Statement by the Spokesperson of the High Representative/Vice-President referred to the conviction of Mr. Jafarov as “disproportionate”, and it merely expressed the hope that the authorities “ensure that Rasul Jafarov is given the opportunity to appeal this verdict in a fair and unbiased process”. On 24 April, the Spokesperson issued a very similar Statement concerning Mr. Aliev's conviction.
The weakness of the EU position is all the more obvious as the US Department of State Statement clearly urged in two distinct Statements the Azerbaijan authorities to “release [Mr. Jafarov/Mr. Aliyev] and others incarcerated in connection with exercising their fundamental freedoms”[5 6].
Our organisations believe that a weak EU positioning, by associating the concept of proportionality with a clearly iniquitous trial, and by failing to call for the immediate release of persons who should never have been prosecuted, serves to comfort rather than deter the policy of repression in Azerbaijan.
Our organisations call on the European Union and its Member States to: -- adopt a public positioning clearly requesting the immediate and unconditional release of all arbitrary imprisoned human rights defenders and journalists, including Mr. Jafarov and Mr. Aliyev. -- condition discussions on the future Strategic Modernization Partnership with Azerbaijan and sectoral discussions on energy to the release of these persons and an end to the systematic harassment on the civil society and the media. -- urge the Azeri authorities to amend 'Law on NGOs' in line with the Venice Commission's December 2014 recommendations and allow free and unfettered working environment for civil society organisations. -- condition high level participation to the opening ceremony of the European Olympic Games to the release of the above mentioned human rights defenders and journalists and to the end of the harassment of civil society and the media.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT)
International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)
Front Line Defenders (FLD)
Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)
On 18 March 2015, the President of Azerbaijan signed a pardon to 101 persons, including human rights defender Mr Bashir Suleymanli, the Executive Director of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS) in Baku.
On 26 May 2014, the Baku Court of Serious Crimes had sentenced the human rights defender to three and a half years' imprisonment for convictions under Articles 179-3-2 (appropriation), 192-2-2 (business activity by an organised group without registration), 213-1 (tax evasion), 308-2 (abuse of official authority with grave consequences) and 313 (forgery) of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to three and a half years.
Front Line Defenders welcomes the release of Bashir Suleymanli but remains concerned for his colleagues who remain in detention after also having beenconvicted on 26 May 2014 of the same charges: Mr Anar Mammadli, chairman of the EMDS and a board member of the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) and Mr Elnur Mammadov, employee of the EMDS as well as the president of their partner organisation International Cooperation of Volunteers Union.
Several other human rights defenders are also in detention, including Ms Leyla Yunus and Mr Arif Yunus, Mr Rasul Jafarov, Mr Intigam Aliyev, and Ms Khadija Ismail. Others have left the country out of fear for their security or have been the subject of travel bans. MrEmin Huseynov, head of Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety, has been living in the Swiss Embassy in Baku since August 2014, when he escaped imminent arrest.
On Wednesday, 1 April 2015, Commissioner Muižnieks issued two public written contributions sent to the Council of Europe concerning the cases of human rights defenders Rasul Jafarovand Anar Mammadli.
The Commissioner stated:
The situation of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan is of great concern to the Commissioner. Reprisals, including judicial harassment, against critical voices in general, and those denouncing human rights violations in the country in particular, is a widespread phenomenon in Azerbaijan, to which the Commissioner has repeatedly attempted to bring the attention of the authorities in his reports and interventions.
On 26 May 2014, the Baku Court of Serious Crimes sentenced human rights defender Mr Anar Mammadli to five and a half years of imprisonment.
His colleagues, Messrs Bashir Suleymanli and Elnur Mammadov were sentenced to three and a half years respectively, with two years of probation for Elnur Mammadov. All three human rights defenders deny the charges, dismissing them as groundless and fabricated.
The Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS) in Baku has been carrying out independent election monitoring in Azerbaijan since 2001, including independent observations of the recent Presidential elections on 9 October 2013. After the elections, the EMDS reported widespread irregularities and fraud during balloting and vote counting.
The three human rights defenders were found guilty under Articles 179-3-2 (appropriation in significant size), 192-2-2 (business activity by an organised group without registration), 213-1 (tax evasion), 308-2 (abuse of official authority with grave consequences) and 313 (service forgery) of the Criminal Code and given high sentences. Elnur Mammadov was immediately arrested in the courtroom.
Anar Mammadli has been held in detention since 16 December 2013 on suspicion of engaging in “business activity by an organised group without registration” under article 192-2-2 of Criminal Code. On 19 March 2014, the Serious Crimes Investigation Unit of the Prosecutor General's Office in Baku brought the additional charges listed above against the three human rights defenders.
On 21 April 2014, the Baku Court of Grave Crimes held a preliminary hearing on the case of human rights defender MrAnar Mammadli.
Anar Mammadli has been detained since 16 December 2013 on suspicion of engaging in “business activity by an organised group without registration”. If convicted, the human rights defender could serve up to five years in prison.
Anar Mammadli's lawyers requested that the Court dismiss all charges. They also asked that, should the trial proceed, Anar Mammadli not be placed in a cell inside the courtroom (as was currently the case) and that the proceedings be filmed. Furthermore, the lawyers requested that the human rights defender be granted bail or be put on house arrest, as detention was unnecessary. The judge dismissed all the petitions, apart from granting permission to Anar Mammadli to sit with the lawyers rather than in a cage during the trial and allowing additional witnesses to be called. A full hearing of the case is expected on 28 April 2014. Several representatives of the diplomatic community were present at the hearing.
On 19 March 2014, the Grave Crimes Investigation Unit of the Prosecutor General's Office in Baku brought additional charges against human rights defender Mr Anar Mammadli and his colleagues, Messrs Bashir Suleimanlyand Elnur Mammadov.
Anar Mammadli has been held in detention since 16 December 2013 on suspicion of engaging in “business activity by an organised group without registration” under article 192.2.2 of Criminal Code.
On 19 March, the Grave Crimes Investigation Unit of the Prosecutor General's Office concluded its investigation into the affairs of the EMDS and brought additional charges against three staff members belonging to the organisation. Anar Mammadli and Bashir Suleimanly face charges under five articles of the Criminal Code; namely, large-scale appropriation or plunder of property; engaging in illegal entrepreneurship with extortion of income; gross tax and state social insurance evasion; abuse of power causing harm to or with the intention of influencing the results of elections; and fraud. Elnur Mammadov is facing an additional four charges bringing the number of criminal charges against him to nine. All three staff members deny the charges, dismissing them as groundless and fabricated.
On 6 March 2014, Anar Mammadli's pre-trial detention period was extended by three months at the request of the Prosecutor General's Office.
Pedro Agramunt (Spain, EPP/CD) and Joseph Debono Grech (Malta, SOC), Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) rapporteurs for monitoring of Azerbaijan, have expressed their deep concern at the Nasimi District Court’s decision to place Anar Mammadli, a well-known human rights defender, in pre-trial detention
The charges against Anar Mammadliinclude, inter alia, tax evasion and illegal business activity.
Mr Mammadli is Chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center which monitored the last presidential election in Azerbaijan and published critical reports on the electoral process. His organisation co-operates with international human rights organisations including the Council of Europe. The rapporteurs have met him on several occasions during their fact-finding visits to Baku and at the Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg.
“This decision on pre-trial detention may raise suspicions about politically motivated justice which we denounced in our recent report on the honouring of obligations and commitments by Azerbaijan debated in the Assembly earlier this year”, said the co-rapporteurs, pointing out that pre-trial detention should be the last resort and can be justifiable only in exceptional circumstances. “Fairness of judicial procedure and, more generally, the lack of independence of justice, are serious concerns in Azerbaijan”, they added.
"We call on the Azerbaijan authorities to ensure that the legal proceedings are conducted transparently and in full compliance with Azerbaijan’s obligations under Articles 5 and 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. That includes a possible revision of the decision on pre-trial detention. We will follow very closely the whole procedure and will raise this question with the authorities during our planned visit early next year,” they concluded.
On 16 December 2013, human rights defender Mr Anar Mammadli was ordered to serve three months of pre-trial detention by the Nasimi District Court in Baku. His case will be investigated under Article 192 .2.2 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan on suspicion of engaging in “business activity by an organised group without registration in the order provided by the legislation of the Azerbaijan Republic”. If convicted, Anar Mammadli could serve up to five years' imprisonment.
On 16 December, Anar Mammadli, Mr Bashir Suleimanly and Mr Elnur Mammedov were summoned to the Investigation Department of the Prosecutor General for Serious Crimes in Azerbaijan. At around 18:30, Bashir Suleimanly and Elnur Mammedov were released and were informed by their lawyer that Anar Mammadli had been sentenced to three months of pre-trial detention in Nasimi District Court.
Anar Mammadli is accused of running "business activity without registration". The EMDS' official registration was revoked in 2008 and it has not been able to officially re-register since then. The EMDS has lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights challenging this situation.
In late October 2013, the Prosecutor General launched an investigation into EMDS on suspicion of tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of office. During the questioning, members of EMDS were told that the suspicions are due to the organisation having received a large amount of foreign funding. Since 26 November 2013, Anar Mammadli and four other staff members of EMDS were prohibited from leaving Azerbaijan to attend the EU East Partnership Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. They have been banned from travelling since then. On 31 October 2013, during a search conducted in the EMDS offices, print materials, press releases, reports, and financial documents were confiscated, as well as two computers.