Peaceful protestors imprisoned in Azerbaijan
Scores of activists were detained and five were sentenced to prison following a peaceful protest in Azerbaijan on Saturday. The arrest of around 80 peaceful protesters, 30 of whom were then charged, came just days after the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) failed to pass a resolution on political prisoners calling on Azerbaijan to cease arresting and prosecuting peaceful protesters.
Saturday’s protest began as a peaceful gathering of more than 200 people in three separate locations in central Baku, the capital, to demonstrate against the authorities’ violent dispersal of another, larger protest in the northern Azerbaijani city of Ismayili last week.
Unfair court hearings – lasting just minutes and using court-appointed lawyers – were held after Saturday’s arrests, and 25 activists, including three people previously declared as prisoners of conscience, were handed heavy fines of between 300 and 2500 AZN ($383 and $3,186). The average monthly wage in Azerbaijan is $513.
Khadija Ismayilova, a prominent independent journalist, was among those arrested and put on trial. Khadija was recently blackmailed and targeted in a smear campaign after she published a report on presidential corruption: “I was among the protesters in Sahil park [in central Baku]… [by then it was] already silent, as most of the protesters were dispersed. The group of the police attacked just to take me. I was screaming, asking who they are, as they never introduced themselves and what they want… My trial was a comedy. I entered the room where two men were sitting on the defence’s place. I asked who they are and the judge said they were my lawyers. I said ‘I don’t know these people, I don’t trust them and I refuse. I want my own lawyers.’ I didn’t know that in fact my lawyers were outside of the building and were not allowed in. The judge said I can’t have my own lawyer as they are not here.”