Case History: Hilal Mamedov
On 17 March 2016, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, issued a presidential pardon for 148 prisoners, among them human rights defenders Hilal Mamedov.
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. He was also the head of the Committee for the Defence of Novruzali Mamedov, a prominent Talysh scientist and human rights activist charged in June 2008 with espionage in favour of Iran and subsequently sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment. Novruzali Mamedov died as a result of torture in prison in 2010.
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 Ismayilova and Intigam Aliyev who remain in prison in retaliation for their peaceful and legitimate human rights work.
On 12 June 2014, the Board for Administrative and Economic Affairs of the Supreme Court accepted the claim of human rights defender Mr Hilal Mamedovthat the Ministry of the Interior and Prosecutor General had prejudiced the trial against him. The Court ordered a retrial in the Baku Court of Appeal.
Hilal Mamedov's complaint had previously been rejected by the trial court and the Baku Court of Appeal. The human rights defender's claim that there was a violation of the presumption of innocence arose from the publication of a joint press release by the Ministry of the Interior and the Prosecutor General on 4 July 2013. The statement presented Hilal Mamedov as a criminal, although his guilt had not been proven in court.
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.
On 21 January 2014, the Baku Court of Appeal rejected an appeal on behalf of human rights defender Mr Hilal Mamedov.
During the appeal, representatives for Hilal Mamedov argued that that the Ministry of the Interior and the office of the Prosecutor General had violated the presumption of innocence by presenting him as a person who had committed a crime in their statement of 4 July 2013, before the court had found him guilty. However, neither representatives from the Ministry of the Interior nor the office of the Prosecutor General were present at the hearing. The court dismissed the petition and upheld the original verdict.
Hilal Mamedov was sentenced to five years imprisonment on 27 September 2013 on fabricated charges of selling drugs, high treason including espionage for Iran and incitement to national, racial, social and religious hatred and hostility. International observers, including Front Line Defenders, remarked that the trial was marred by many violations of fair trial standards.
On 27 September 2013, the Baku Grave Crimes Court sentenced human rights defender Hilal Mamedov to 5 years in maximum security prison.
Hilal Mamedov was arrested on 21 June 2012 for alleged possession of heroin. He was later further charged with treason and incitement of national, racial, social and religious hatred and hostility. His case hearing in the Baku Court of Grave Crimes began on 29 January 2013.
On the evening of 27 September 2013, Judge Azer Orujov found Hilal Mamedov guilty of drugs selling (Article 234.4.3 Criminal Code), high treason for espionage for Iran (Article 274) and incitement to national, racial, social and religious hatred and hostility (Article 283). The semi-closed trial process has been marked by violations of fair trial standards, including a number of procedural violations during arrest, search and investigation. Hilal Mamedov's lawyer stated that the whole trial has been politically motivated and that the final verdict is based on false charges. Mamedov has stated that he will not ask for pardon/amnesty.
On 10 April 2013, a new hearing on the case of human rights defender Mr Hilal Mamedov took place in the Baku Court of Serious Crimes. The hearing is part of the ongoing trial of the human rights defender which is happening behind closed doors, following the rejection of the human rights defender's request to have a public trial by Judge Azer Orujev.
Hilal Mamedov was arrested on 21 June 2012 on charges of treason, the manufacture of drugs and incitement to racism and xenophobia. He faces up to 15 years in prison. According to the prosecution, the human rights defender was allegedly recruited by the Iranian security services in order to undermine the sovereignty of Azerbaijan. Moreover, the investigators claim that the articles published by Hilal Mamedov in his newspaper Tolishi Sado contained "thoughts aimed at excitation of inter-ethic enmity". The human rights defender and his defence deny all accusations.
At a previous trial hearing, on 13 March 2013, Hilal Mamedov requested that the witness for the prosecution, Mr Elman Guliyev, be questioned a second time. The request was allowed by Judge Azer Orujev but the witness did not appear at the hearing to which he was summoned on 27 March 2013.
He instead appeared on 3 April and testified that the human rights defender had told him, in 2006, that he was going to use money earned from selling drugs to establish an autonomous region for the Talysh people, an ethnic minority in Azerbaijan. Mr Guliyev claimed that there were two other witnesses to that conversation but the witnesses denied the claims. Mr Guliyev was also asked why he did not report this information in 2006; but he did not clearly answer this question.
On 29 January 2013, the Baku 'Court of Grave Crimes' began to hear the case of human rights defender and chief editor of the Talysh minority newspaper Tolyshi Sedo, Mr Hilal Mamedov. This hearing took place behind closed doors, following the rejection of Hilal Mamedov's request to have a public trial by Judge Azer Orujov.
The human rights defender is charged with “illegal manufacturing, purchase, storage, transportation, transfer or selling of narcotics, psychotropic substances in large amount” under Article 234.4.3, “state betrayal” under Article 274, and “excitation of national, racial or religious hostility by person with use of the service position” under Article 283.2.2 of the Criminal Code. If found guilty, he faces up to 15 years' imprisonment.
On 30 January 2013, before the second hearing, the judge announced that it would be closed to the public. Only after a protest made by the defence lawyers were human rights defenders and relatives were permitted to enter the courtroom. In his speech during the hearing, Hilal Mamedov mentioned the severe punishment of his predecessor in the position of editor-in-chief of Tolyshi Sedo, Mr Novruzaly Mamedov. He spoke of his predecessor's closed trial and death in custody.
Hilal Mamedov stated that as a result, he would refuse to participate in his trial. He ordered his lawyers not to represent him or he would report them to the Bar Association. The judge then threatened to sanction the lawyers if they obeyed this request by the defendant.
Hilal Mamedov finally decided not to refuse legal representation, but rather to limit their activity. According to the information available, the lawyers decided not to return to the courtroom on 30 January 2013 after a recess at 2pm.The judge subsequently sent a request to the Bar Association to undertake punitive measures against the lawyers for refusal to return to the court room.