07 Sep, 2020

Azeri opposition activist on hunger strike after sentenced on bogus ‘hooliganism’ charges

An opposition politician and member of ALDE Party member Musavat in Azerbaijan has gone on hunger strike after the judge deprived him of his last statement at the process and sentenced him to four years and three months in prison on what he and his supporters call bogus ‘hooliganism’ charges.

In March 2020, three days after the President of Azerbaijan suggested he would use measures supposedly designed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic to crackdown on the opposition, prominent opposition leader and ardent government critic Tofiq Yagublu was arrested.

Mr Yagublu denied all charges and Musavat immediately said the incident was politically motivated and demanded the immediate release of Tofiq Yagublu.

Speaking after the ruling on 3 September, Musavat leader Arif Hajili said that this confirmed the baselessness and futility of the government's tales of dialogue and reform: "By making such a decision about the Karabakh war fighter, the government has shown that there is no justice system in the country, that it does not pay attention to moral values ​​and the interests of society."

“The fate of governments that do not take into account public opinion and see themselves as above the people and the rule of law is clear," he wrote on his Facebook page. He has called on Mr Yagublu to be immediately released. On this same page he shares the Amnesty International campaign to free Tofiq Yagublu.

Sakhavat Soltanli, Deputy Chairman of the Musavat Party on Foreign Policy, has also taken to Twitter to protest the imprisonment of his fellow party member and shared the Change.org campaign asking him to be released. 

Three rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have urged Azerbaijan to review the case of opposition politician and stated their alarm at the severity of the sentence and noted that fabricated charges of ‘hooliganism’ have been used on several occasions in the past by the Azeri authorities to silence political opposition.

The ALDE Party continues to closely follow the situation. At its last Congress in Athens in October 2019, the ALDE Party reaffirmed its call for all political prisoners to be released in Azerbaijan.

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