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Situation with Political Prisoners Worsens

Situation with Political Prisoners Worsens
Interview 


2017 July 29 ( Saturday )  15:15:45
Print version
Русский Azərbaycan

The Political Prisoners Defense Center of Azerbaijan has updated the list of political prisoners, which is published on the website www.contact.az.

One of the co-founders of the Center, human rights defender Leila Yunus, in an interview with Turan, said: "Last time we updated it on July 27 and found that there are at least 164 people in the detention for political reasons, that is our last list includes 164 names, but maybe information about some arrested did not reach us. In general, from November 2016 to July 2017, the number of political prisoners did not fall below the figure of 160. In the list of March 31, 2017, 162 people were registered."

- You update the list every 2-3 months. What does this mean?

- The list needs to be updated regularly, as the composition changes, and, not always because of the release of a political prisoner. The death of a political prisoner in jail is an ordinary event in Azerbaijan. The list of March 31 under No. 8 included the blogger Mehman Huseyn Oglu Galandarov. He was killed in detention on April 28, 2017 and the updated June 6 list no longer included his name.

The people released are excluded from the list. Since November 2016, the blogger Abdul Abilov, member of the PFPA Elvin Abdullayev, Lieutenant Asif Latifov, two relatives of Ganimat Zahid, who were imprisoned as hostages, and Nuhbala Rahimov, Imam of the Nardaran mosque Rahima Khanum, who served his term till the end, have been freed.

It would seem that six people have already been freed and one was killed, so the list should become smaller. But new victims of repression always come to the place of those who have left. Repressions in Azerbaijan do not subside. They go on increasing.

The blogger Mehman Huseynov and the journalists Afgan Mukhtarly and Aziz Orujov were thrown behind bars. There were no female prisoners after Khadija Ismayilova and I were released from prison, but on May 27 Gezal Bayramli was thrown behind bars. In Nardaran, the arrests do not subside and everything continues. It was not enough for them to imprison the father and three sons of Atabala Shahbazov, so they also threw the last, fourth, son behind the bars in May. Probably they think that since he has the name of Atabala (father and child), let the father and the four children be imprisoned.... What should the women of this family feel? ...

- You have been involved in human rights activities since the late 1980s. Is it always so bad?

-For almost 30 years I have been informing the international community about political repression in Azerbaijan and the number of victims of repression. The trust in our information during these years only increased.

I have been compiling lists of political prisoners since 1988. Unfortunately, I must say that the number of political prisoners in the Gorbachev (Vezirov-Mutalibov) period did not exceed 10 people, while in independent Azerbaijan political repression simply rages.

Arrests for political reasons began after Heydar Aliyev came to power and reached their peak by the end of the 1990s, when the list of political prisoners included 716 names! After Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe and made special commitments to release political prisoners, most of these people were released. But there are still 14 prisoners from this list, sentenced to life imprisonment precisely for political reasons. And, as is customary in political trials, these people"s guilt was proven neither during the investigation nor during the trials. But they have been imprisoned for more than 20 years, and they die in custody, as Vaghif Huseynov died after more than 18 years in jail. He was sentenced to life imprisonment together with his son Magsud Huseynov. The father died in the cell, and the son continues to serve his sentence. They are life-long convicts and have remained on the list for more than 20 years. Their number is reduced only due to their death.

- In such conditions, how do you see your activity?

- After our release from detention, together with our colleagues: Elshan Hasanov and Oktay Gulaliyev, on November 15, 2016, we compiled a list of political prisoners for that period, which included 160 names. The list is regularly updated. On January 27, 2017, along with like-minded people, we created the Political Prisoners Defense Center, which supports our work on updating the list.

As human rights defenders, we also have to monitor the changing situation of political prisoners in detention. We have to update information on trials and sentences, and on persecuting people already in custody. Movsum Samedov, the leader of the Islamic Party, was sentenced to 12 years of common regime in 2011, but he has served almost half of that time in the strict regime Gobustan prison: they conduct new trials and tighten the regime of detention.

We have to monitor the situation of political prisoners very carefully, thoroughly and impartially. These people should know that they are not forgotten, they are remembered, and they have where to turn for help and to pass on information.

We will try to ensure that information about political prisoners sent to international human rights organizations, the Council of Europe, the European Union, and the US State Department is clear and reflects the state of affairs in each specific period. -0-