Attorney General Zakir Garalov Threatens Civil Society Institutions in Azerbaijan
BAKU. October 1, 2015: Turan News Agency reports that the Azerbaijani Attorney General Zakir Garalov threatens the local nonprofit organizations and media outlets with new investiations and prosecutions based on the alleged violations of the Azerbaijani laws. Specifically, the Azerbaijani Attorney General accuses the Azerbaijani nonprofit organizations of not following Azerbaijan's laws on NGOs. Garalov says many local NGO are not officially registered and they do not report to the Azerbaijani government about the funds they receive from international donors. Zakir Garalov also says the foreign media outlets operating in Azerbaijan violate the local laws by not siging proper employment agreements with local journalists. Garalov also accused the local nonprofit organizations of underreporting the fundings they receive from international donors. Garalov threatens with prosecutions saying if the local NGOs and journalists continued violating the laws they will be brought to justice.
The Azerbaijani law enforcement has launched a crackdown against the local civic institutions since the spring of 2014. Since the start of this crackdown, dozens of local civic activists and local journalists have been arrested, many local nonprofit organizations' activities have been shut down, their bank accounts have been frozen and their entire office equipment have been subjected to confiscation and seizure followed by intrusive investigations and show trials aimed at "exposing" the so-called "fifth columns" of the West.
BAKU. September 28, 2015 (RFE/RL): Police in Baku have searched the apartment of a contributor of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service.
The September 26 operation in Islam Shikhali's rented apartment was related to charges of tax evasion, according to the search warrant.
Shikhali's notebook, video camera, microphone, mobile phone, all bank checks, as well as his ID card were confiscated.
All personal documents, except Shikhali's passport, were later returned to the journalist.
During the search, Shikhali was not home and his roommate, Orkhan Rustamzade, was taken to the Prosecutor’s Office where he was questioned for one-and-a-half to two hours.
Rustamzade was released on the same day and asked to tell Shikhali that he was invited to the Prosecutor’s Office for questioning on September 28.
The raid comes at a time when President Ilham Aliyev's regime in Azerbaijan has been under increasing censure for its record on civil society and media freedoms.
This criticism intensified recently following the imprisonment of rights activists Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif as well as another RFE/RL contributor, Khadija Ismayilova. The charges against the Yunuses and Ismayilova were widely believed to have been fabricated in both cases.
WASHINGTON. September 28, 2015: John Boehner’s Speakership was a setback for Congressional ethics. He backslid on a number of important reforms, and helped to return the Ethics Committee to its traditional role of covering up wrongdoing by incumbent members of Congress.
Boehner ally Rep. Charles Dent (R-PA), the Chairman of the Ethics Committee, is currently orchestrating a whitewash of apparent House rules violations related to a junket by ten House members to Azerbaijan in 2013.
On July 31, the Ethics Committee announced that it had found “no evidence” that the ten broke House rules. It plans “no further action regarding this matter and considers it closed.”
For ethics groups, however, the matter is far from closed. In fact, both liberal and conservative groups, along with reform advocates like Norm Ornstein, are demanding the Committee release a report on the trip compiled by a separate entity, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).
According to the OCE report, the junket was sponsored by nonprofit groups, but was actually paid for by SOCAR, the state oil company of Azerbaijan. NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm asserted, “We believe that the report will confirm that the Committee covered up obvious violations of House rules.”
BAKU. September 24, 2015: Google, Bing, Yahoo, all move aside. In a first for the South Caucasus, Azerbaijan is working on its own web-search service. Officials in the tightly controlled energy-exporter say that both national security and commercial considerations prompted the idea.
Under the guidance of the Ministry of Communications, the government body that oversaw the launch of the world’s first Azerbaijani satellite, Azerbaijani coders have already developed a web crawler and are now working on a software application, Trend news agency reported on September 23.
A government-run technology developer, Dilmanc, said that the national search engine will bring more information security to Azerbaijan. The ministry has not elaborated about perceived threats, but some rights activists likely would surmise that government critics are among the ministry’s main concerns.
WASHINGTON. September 23, 2015: Almost all the news coming out of Azerbaijan these days is bad. On August 9, an independent Azerbaijani journalist, Rasim Aliyev, was beaten and killed. A few days later, civil society activists Leyla and Arif Yunus were sentenced to lengthy prison terms on politically-motivated charges. And on September 1, a court sentenced award-winning journalist, Khadija Ismaylova, to seven and a half years in jail on absurd charges of tax evasion, illegal business activity, and abuse of power.
International reaction to the sentencing of the Yunuses was quick and outspoken, with various human rights organizations describing the verdict as a “total travesty” and “shocking and frankly shameful.” Britain’s Minister for Europe, David Lidington, called the verdict “politically motivated.” Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, tweeted, “Azerbaijan’s authorities reach new low in sentencing of Leyla and Arif Yunus.”
The U.S. State Department, by contrast, issued a far weaker statement, saying the United States was “deeply troubled” by the prison sentences. In response to the murder of Rasim Aliyev, tthe U.S. issued a statement from its embassy in Baku; nothing was said in Washington. The United States was once again “deeply troubled” by Ismailova’s sentencing, according to the State Department deputy spokesman.
Instead of condemning these developments in the strongest terms, the U.S. recently sent three envoys — Special Envoy Amos Hochstein, Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard Hoagland, and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas — to Baku to discuss energy, Trans-Caspian, and security issues, respectively. Even as the human rights situation gets worse by the day, Farkas reportedly declared Azerbaijan a “strategic partner” of the United States.
BAKU. September 22, 2015: There is something about Steven Seagal that really appeals to authoritarian leaders across the former Soviet Union. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev now has become the latest regional strongman to host the Hollywood b-list action hero and BFF of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Stevan Seagal noted that he was pleased to visit Azerbaijan, saying that he was deeply impressed by what he saw in the county,” announced the presenter of an English-language, government video that showed Seagal chatting away with Aliyev on September 21. The actor, the announcer assured viewers, was impressed by the high-level conduct of the European Games, a continental sports contest hosted by Azerbaijan in June. Aliyev thanked his aikido black-belt master visitor for the kind words and could not help but agree that the Games were, indeed, fabulous.
PARIS. September 18, 2015 (RSF): Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned about Shirin Abbasov, a young reporter held incommunicado for the past two days. He is the latest victim of the government’s persecution of journalists working for Meydan TV, a Berlin-based online TV station that covers Azerbaijan.
Abbasov disappeared without trace in Baku on 16 September while on his way to the university. His lawyer, who has not been allowed to see him, thinks he is being held by the MIA, a police unit that is supposed to combat organized crime.
Reporters Without Borders has been told that he has been placed in detention for a 30-day period.
Aytaj Ahmedova, another journalist working for Meydan TV, was also abducted on a Baku street on 16 September by plainclothesmen, who questioned her for several hours and then released her.
“We are very worried to learn that Shirin Abbasov is being held incommunicado,” said Johann Bihr, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
BAKU. September 18, 2015 (RFE/RL): Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has thrown down the gauntlet in the face of criticism from the European Union, accusing the bloc of being "anti-Azerbaijani" and mocking European values amid the ongoing refugee crisis.
During a joint press conference with visiting Czech President Milos Zeman in Baku on September 15, Aliyev blasted a recent European Parliament resolution that condemned his country's human rights situation and called for the release of all political prisoners and imprisoned journalists.
"The resolution is groundless, biased, and it is a political provocation based on lies," Aliyev said of the September 10 resolution.
The nonbinding resolution, passed by a vote of 365 to 202, with 72 abstentions, decried the "unprecedented repression against civil society in Azerbaijan."
The resolution demanded that Azerbaijan end its crackdown on civil society and human rights work and suggested that the EU's negotiations on a strategic partnership agreement with Azerbaijan be suspended as long as Baku "fails to take concrete steps in advancing respect for universal human rights."
Speaking earlier on September 15 at the opening ceremonies of a new school in Baku, Aliyev called on the country's youth to stay away from "foreign influence and the so-called Western values that our people do not share."
BAKU. September 16, 2015 (Radio Azadliq): It was not without criticism and harsh statements. Some officials described it unfair, others biased. Here is a compilation of some of the statements from various government officials in Baku.
Ali Panahov, Vice President of the Yeni Azerbaijan party youth branch:
"The resolution adopted by the European Parliament against our country and which is far from Azerbaijan's realities is an example of double standards and disregard of democratic values".
Ali Ahmadov, Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister:
"It seems that this authoritative European organization is afflicted with an anti-Azerbaijani disease. The members of the European Parliament (MEP), who voted for the adoption of this resolution, are well aware that Azerbaijan is the most successful country in the post-Soviet area, as well as in Europe. Most of them visited Baku at different periods and admired the rapid development, renewal and economic growth of Azerbaijan in a short period of time".
BAKU. September 14, 2015 (Azadliq.org): Azerbaijan’s diplomat to the Netherlands, Nahid Jafarov is yet another diplomat to be dismissed from his service. Jafarov, was invited to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shortly after his sacking but instead of going back home, Jafarov opted for asking for political asylum in the Netherlands says AzNews.az.
AzNews.az reports Jafarov was dismissed due to his friendship with Arif Mammadov, the diplomat whose dismissal was the first in what is turning to be a reoccurring matter between the MFA and its diplomats stationed abroad.
Arif Mammadov was the former ambassador to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation at the EU. Jafarov suspected that upon his return he will be questioned about his friendship with Mammadov and perhaps even get arrested reports AzNews.az.
Mammadov, who is now described as the “insurgent diplomat” who was first of the country’s diplomats to openly express his disappointment with the government in Azerbaijan and its policies during the fire earlier in May, which took the lives of 15 innocent men and women, including five children.
Nahid Jafarov himself made no comments or statements so far.
STRASBURG. September 11, 2015 (Radio Azadliq): September 10, European Parliament adopted a resolution on Azerbaijan, highlighting the grave situation in the country. In their resolution on Azerbaijan, the MEPs called for, "immediate and unconditional release from jail of all political prisoners, human rights defenders, journalists and other civil society activists, including Khadija Ismayilova, Leyla Yunus and Arif Yunus, in line with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights and / or a prompt investigation into the death of the journalist Rasim Aliyev."
The resolution, which was adopted by 365 votes to 202, also called to end crackdown on civil society and human rights work and put on hold negotiations for a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Azerbaijan until "the government takes concrete steps in advancing respect for universal human rights".
Member of the European Parliament, Marietje Schaake (ALDE/D66), following the resolution commented, "Over the past months the human rights violations have systematically increased with excessive sentences for journalist Khadija Ismayilova and human rights defenders Leyla Yunus and her husband and there are many more in prison. Civil society, political opposition figures, journalists and activists face violence, intimidation and repression. Silent diplomacy and dialogues have not rendered the needed improvements, must speak out now.”
BAKU. September 11, 2015 (Radio Azadliq): September 11, according to press office at Azerbaijan's MFA, the head of the EU delegation, Malena Mardi was summoned today to speak with the Deputy Foreign Minsiter Mahmud Mammad Guliyev.
Guliyev said the MFA "sharply condemned" the resolution adopted yesterday, September 10 on Azerbaijan. "The biased document, is destructive to the relations between Azerbaijan and the EU. It seriously impedes the future prospects" said Guliyev.
The Deputy Foreing Minister criticized the adoption process saying it was done in hasty manner without any consultations.
"The resolution is full of biased and made up accusations on the human rights record in the country".
Such methods are doomed for failure said Guliyev.
"In addition, the humiliative language of certain provisions goes beyond ethical norms and frameworks. The absurd and outrageous accusations against the country are totally unacceptable and seriously undermines the organization's credibility. In addition, the calls for targeted sanctions and visa bans are absolutely unreasonable and unacceptable".
BAKU. September 11, 2015 (Radio Azadliq): "The European Parliament has obviously lost its sense of reality and allowed itself be used in the hands of certain Western circles".
In a statement to AZERTAC Presidential aid voiced his concern and discontent with yesterday's (September 10) resolution on Azerbaijan adopted at the European Parliament. Hasanov described the resolution as well as other recent Azerbaijan related statements the result of certain Islamophobic, pro-Armenian cricles' and their inability to handle Azerbaijan's independent political rhetoric and its successes.
"I can tell you with much assurance that these non-stop actions, unsubjective resolutions are directly linked to the incitement of these circles. It has become a common practice to adopt resolutions based on absurd claims especially during big international events taking place in Azerbaijan. Such statements are controlled by Islamophobic fractions outside of the European Parliament."
"This resolution adopted ahead of the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan is nothing but an attempt to damage yet again our country's reputation by the management of this structure. I would like to remind them, Azerbaijan is not EU member therefore it has no responsibilities and the Parliament's resolution is not but a piece of paper to us- just like previous ill-intentioned documents".
Ali Hasanov said these documents cannot be taken seriously given the suspicious origin of information gathered in preparation of these resolutions. Instead Hasanov urged EP to think of the growing refugee crisis.
PARIS. September 9, 2015: Azerbaijan's first lady, Mehriban Aliyeva, enjoyed a warm welcome from French officials during her high-profile visit to Paris last week, including a tete-a-tete with President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace.
A new investigative report, however, reveals that a team of French journalists gave a significantly frostier reception to Aliyeva, whose husband has ruled the oil-rich Caucasus nation with an iron fist since succeeding his dying father in the job a decade ago.
The program, Cash Investigation, broadcast on French national television on September 7, shows its reporter, Elise Lucet, approaching the first lady as she opens a photo exhibition held at a city hall in the heart of Paris and titled Azerbaijan, Land Of Tolerance.
"Is your country really a land of tolerance for you?" the reporter asks.
"Yes, of course," answers Aliyeva, looking slightly alarmed.
The journalist then points out that Azerbaijan, a country with one of the world's worst human rights records, has "many political prisoners in jail."
"How can you say that? It's not true," Aliyeva responds as she tries to inch away, advising the journalist to go and "get correct information."
BAKU. September 4, 2015 (OCCRP.org): Friends and family of President Ilham Aliyev make free use of two luxury yachts worth US$ 59 million that are owned by the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), the organization charged with managing the country’s oil wealth for its citizens.
That means the yachts deprive Azerbaijani citizens of about US$ 12 million per year in oil profits—the amount experts say such yachts typically cost to run. That’s in addition to the US$ 2,000 worth of fuel per hour that the yachts consume.
It’s not the first time SOCAR has been so accommodating to the Aliyevs. The First Family previously used SOCAR to register their US$ 25 million London mansion.
Former crew members on one of the yachts told OCCRP that Aliyev, his family and inner circle have regularly used the yachts, often when visiting glamorous destinations such as Saint-Tropez and Cannes on the French Riviera.
Three other former crew members told reporters for the Investigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI) that they were often sent on long trips across the Mediterranean to mislead media or just so the Azerbaijani VIPs could have lunch on the boats – at a cost of more than $100,000 in fuel.
BAKU. September 1, 2015 (RFE/RL): An Azerbaijani court has sentenced investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova to 7 1/2 years in prison after convicting her on charges that rights groups have called retribution for her reports on corruption involving senior government officials.
The Baku court on September 1 found Ismayilova, a contributor to RFE/RL, guilty of tax evasion, illegal business activity, and abuse of power.
In addition to the prison sentence, Ismayilova, 39, was also barred from holding public office for three years and was fined $300 to cover legal expenses. The court found her not guilty on a charge of inciting an individual to attempt suicide, after the complainant withdrew his accusation.
Ismayilova, who has reported extensively on the financial dealings of long-ruling President Ilham Aliyev and members of his family, has strongly denied the charges and called the trial a "scam" meant to silence her work.
The verdict and sentence drew swift condemnation from colleagues, human rights groups, and media freedom organizations.
Nenad Pejic, RFE/RL’s editor in chief, said Ismayilova's trial was "an example of politics, not law."
BAKU. Augut 31, 2015 (Radio Azadliq): Today, August 31, Khadija Ismayil read her final statement in court. The prosecutor cut her short. Here is Khadija Ismayil's full statement.
Dear court attendants, the court committee, which has turned into the observers of this hearing, and those who have taken the seats of the people who are genuinely interested in attending the hearing:
I am not sure what your intention is in holding this express court, but I think the repression machine is about to collapse. Surely, we can see this as a result of the collapse in the oil market, but there are other reasons as well. One of these reasons is us!
Many are familiar with the ability of Azerbaijan’s law-enforcement system to invent crimes. But for years the honest citizens of this country, its honest journalists (and I am not talking about the ones who have been kissing up to the prosecutor, of course), and its human rights defenders have been exposing the shame of our judicial system. They have forced the repression machine to cover its disgraceful acts with even more shame. The more lies that were exposed, the more they were forced to tell more lies. The prosecutor's office and the court employees had to resort to more dishonesty to cover their lies.
From the onset, this hearing proved that the “envelope salaries” of tax and prosecutor’s office employees do not fulfill their needs, and in an exchange for illegal privileges they are unable to even prepare a proper slander case.
WASHINGTON. August 29, 2015: Khadija Ismayilova, an Azerbaijani journalist working for the congressionally funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has been sitting behind bars in Baku since December and faces up to 19 years in prison.
With the number of journalists jailed around the world surging, a case like hers hardly seems like news these days. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, last year 221 journalists were locked up, an increase of 10% on the previous year and the second-highest number since CPJ began keeping track of such data in 1990.
But Ismayilova's case deserves special attention for what it reveals about today's authoritarians -- and us.
Today, the United States needs a closer fusing of its interests and values when dealing with authoritarians around the globe. Following such a path increases Washington's bargaining power precisely because the authoritarians come to see that they can't play one American interest off against another. In turn, such a policy also heartens those states who are paying the price for keeping their own turn to liberalism on track. And no less important, U.S. administrations reinforce their credibility with global publics who, rather than see policy hypocrisy on Washington's part, see an America acting consonant with its stated principles.
WASHINGTON. August 27, 2015: Ten government watchdog groups have called on House Ethics Committee Chair Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Ranking Member Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) to release the Office of Congressional Ethics’ findings regarding all-expense-paid trips to Azerbaijan taken by 10 members of Congress in 2013, according to a Wednesday press release. Earlier this month, the Ethics Committee dropped its own probe into the trips, cleared the lawmakers of wrongdoing and did not release the OCE’s findings.
“We are concerned about the committee’s unprecedented decision not to release the OCE’s findings in circumstances where the Members under investigation remain” in Congress, the groups’ letter reads. The Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Demand Progress, Democracy 21, Thomas Mann, the National Legal and Policy Center, Norm Ornstein, Public Citizen, and James Thurber all signed the letter.
“This decision is especially concerning because the Committee itself played a decisive role in approving the Members’ travel to Azerbaijan,” the authors wrote. The groups also raised questions about whether Dent should have recused himself from the matter after receiving contributions from individuals associated with the nonprofit network under investigation in May. OpenSecrets Blog broke the story of the contributions to Dent.
BAKU. August 26, 2015(RFE/RL): The trial of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova in Azerbaijan has been postponed until August 31.
On August 26, the judge announced her decision to delay the hearing after Ismayilova's lawyer, Fariz Namazli, requested a new trial, arguing that prosecutors had ignored documents proving his client’s innocence.
Last week, a state prosecutor requested a nine-year sentence for Ismayilova.
The request on August 21 came a day after the state's case against the 39-year-old Ismayilova was wrapped up during a closed-door hearing in Baku.
Ismayilova, an RFE/RL contributor who reported extensively on corruption in Azerbaijan, faces charges of embezzlement, tax evasion, and abuse of power.
BAKU. August 24, 2015 (RFE/RL): Public prosecutor, Ramazan Hadiyev in his statement on August 21, said “Kahdija Ismayil abused her powers as the chief of the AzadliqRadiosy Baku bureau. She thus violated Article 101 of the Tax Code by avoiding taxes and by signing service contracts also made others pay less taxes.
“And yet Khadija Ismayil considers herself innocent on all accounts. Aynura Imranova who was questioned during the investigation indicated she was an educated woman and that is would be impossible to force her into writing something let alone a false statement. Based on this, Aynura Imranova, when testifying in court knowingly tried diverting responsibility from Khadija Ismayil. This is why her statements should not be taken as evidence.”
“Another witness Esmira Javadova said since 2009 she has signed contract for service. Her income was 1,400AZN of which she only paid 4% of taxes as part of simplified tax plan. If however, she had signed contract of employment as opposed to contract for service (by independent contractor or self-employed) she would have to pay 14% of her salary in taxes. Ms. Javadova during the investigation said it was Khadija Ismayil who advised her to sign contract for service. This indicates, Khadija Ismayil deliberately created an environment for evading taxes. Later, when Esmira Javadova saw Khadija Ismayil during the court hearing, she rejected her earlier statements. I think it is best if we take into account her statement Ms. Javadova gave during the investigation rather than during the hearing.”
According to the public prosecutor, Khadija Ismayil must be sentenced for correction of behavior and reeducation. She must be deprived of freedom for 8 years based on the Article 179.3.2; 4 years according to the Article 192.2.2; 5 years according to the Article 125; 2 years according to the Article 213.1; and 2 years according to the Article 308.2.
BAKU. August 24, 2015 (RFE/RL): Police clashed with residents in the Azerbaijani city of Mingachevir on August 22, two days after a young Azerbaijani man was found dead after being questioned by local police.
Police used tear gas and sound bombs to disperse the crowd who called for the head of police, Alasgar Badalov, to step down.
BAKU. August 21, 2015 (RFE/RL): A state prosecutor in Azerbaijan has asked for a nine-year prison sentence for Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist and contributor to RFE/RL.
The request on August 21 came a day after the prosecution wrapped up its case against Ismayilova, who is being tried on economic crimes charges she says are politically motivated.
The judge adjourned the hearing after the sentencing request was made, and scheduled the next session for August 26. The verdict could come on that day.
Ismayilova and international human rights organizations have called her trial politically motivated punishment for her investigations into corruption at the highest levels of government in the oil-producing former Soviet republic.
Ismayilova's mother, Elmira, said that Khadija laughed when she heard the sentencing request.
"My child has never done anything bad," Elmira told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service. "She has always spoken the truth."
Ismayilova, who has won numerous international awards for her reporting, has accused the court of rushing through her trial and not giving her or her lawyers sufficient chance to respond to the charges.
BAKU. August 19, 2015 (RFE/RL): A Baku court resumed the trial of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova on August 19.
Journalists, once again, were not allowed to attend the hearing.
Several journalists brought helium-filled green and red balloons -- the colors of the Azerbaijani national flag -- tied on Ismayilova's photograph, and let the balloons fly near the Baku City Court for Serious Crimes, where the trial is being held.
Ismayilova’s supporters chanted: "Freedom to Khadija!"
BAKU. August 18, 2015 (RFE/RL): A Baku court resumed the trial of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova on August 18, while her mother and sister doubted the court's impartiality.
The 39-year-old Ismayilova, an RFE/RL contributor who has won awards for her coverage of official corruption in oil-rich Azerbaijan, is accused of embezzlement, tax evasion, and abuse of power.
Rights groups and Western governments have echoed Ismayilova's charge that the case is politically motivated.
Her mother, Elmira Ismayilova, told journalists during a recess in the hearing on August 18 that the trial was "a lie from top to bottom."
She added that the court had already dismissed several defense motions.
"Khadija asked for an additional week to discuss the case with her lawyers. She also insisted that a man named Ramal Huseyov, who was officially registered in the case as a witness and whom she has never met, be invited to the courtroom to testify," Elmira Ismayilova said. "She also demanded that the hearings not be held on a daily basis so that her right to a daily, two-hour walk outside her cell or the courtroom could be respected. Basically, all her motions were rejected by the judge."
BAKU. August 14, 2015: The official publication of the parliament of Azerbaijan, the newspaper "Azerbaijan", published an article titled“The Washington Post and The Guardian violate ‘armistice’ between Azerbaijan and the US and West.” The article has been published by a newspaper which reflects the official position of the Azerbaijani government and here is what it claims: The article claims that there is a tacit arrangement between the US, some Western European countries and the Azerbaijani government to ensure that the US and Western Europe would turn a blind eye on the ongoing crackdown on the civil society in Azerbaijan, refrain from criticizing Azerbaijan's human rights records in return securing Azerbaijani government's good grace and cooperation on the energy issues. The article voices a complaint that the West is not doing enough to silence the critical statements directed against the Azerbaijani government's human rights records and that notably two major news media outlets - the Washington Post and the Guardian - violate the established arrangement between the US government, Western European governments and Azerbaijan. Below is the full text of the article as it has been translated into English and re-posted by APA, another news media outlet controlled by the Azerbaijani government:
Baku – APA. “Azərbaycan” newspaper has published V.Alibayli`s article headlined “The Washington Post and The Guardian violate ‘armistice’ between Azerbaijan and the USA and West”, APA reports quoting AZERTAC.
The article says: “The facts show that The Washington Post and The Guardian are indeed violating “an armistice” between Azerbaijan and the United States and West. After the visit to Azerbaijan by Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs at the U.S. Department of State Amos Hochstein on 11 July 2015, it seemed like Washington wants to remove coldness in its relationship with Baku by extending a hand of peace. What gave real grounds for optimism was Mr Hochstein`s statements that the USA will support Azerbaijan. This optimism was boosted when Chief of General Staff of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, Colonel General Najmaddin Sadikov had a meeting with the US Military Attache to Azerbaijan on July 14 and the Ministry of Defence expressed its readiness to continue cooperation with the Pentagon and NATO.
BAKU. August 13, 2015 (Radio Azadliq): Today, August 13, Baku Court of Grave Crimes held its final hearing in the case of prominent rights defender Leyla Yunus and her husband, Arif Yunus.
Leyla Yunus was sentenced to 8 years and 6 months, while Arif Yunus was sentenced to 7 years.
Following the sentence Azadliq Radiosu spoke to the lawyer Afgan Mammadov. He said he was hoping for acquittal from today's court. "Surely, we knew they will be jailed. This is why both Leyla and Arif were ready for jail. The final verdict was the same indictment, nothing changed" said Mammadov.
The couple was originally charged with fraud, illegal entepreneurship, tax evasion and forgery. In addition, there is a separate charge of treason as well.
Following the sentence the judge also announced the court decision to confiscate the couple's property and all of their savings in their bank accounts.
PRAGUE. August 12, 2015 (OCCRP.org): It’s hard to steal billions and cover your tracks.
In Azerbaijan, a small coterie has done its best, registering businesses in relatives’ names and scattering assets among dozens of offshore companies.
But in today’s digital world, it’s virtually impossible to leave no footprints.
For months, reporters for OCCRP have painstakingly untangled the connections between obscure companies and unknown individuals across the globe, following each thread back to its source: the clique surrounding the First Family of Azerbaijan.
BAKU. August 10, 2015 (RFE/RL): The trial in Baku of Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova has continued in Baku with testimony from the man the authorities say she pushed to attempt suicide.
Also on August 10 the trial of two prominent Azerbaijani human rights activists was postponed until August 13 at the request of one of the defendants.
Ismayilova, a contributor to RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, was detained in December 2014 on charges of inciting former colleague Tural Mustafayev to commit suicide. Prosecutors later charged her with embezzlement, tax evasion, and abuse of power.
On August 10, Mustafayev said he suffered a nervous breakdown in the past due to differences with his fiancee and that Ismayilova had nothing to do with his suicide attempt.
On July 24, Mustafayev told a preliminary hearing that he had "defamed" Ismayilova under pressure from law enforcement agencies, but a defense motion to dismiss the charge was rejected.
Ismayilova, 39, has reported extensively on the financial dealings of President Ilham Aliyev -- who has tolerated little dissent and shrugged off Western criticism since he succeeded his father as president in 2003 -- and members of his family.
August 10, 2015 (Radio Azadliq): Rasim Aliyev remembered at the trial of Khadija Ismayil
On August 10, journalist Rasim Aliyev was remembered outside the court room where Khadija Ismayil's hearing continued. Journalists and friends took a minute of silence remembering the journalist.
In addition, the Ministry of Health is investigating the cuase of death. In a press statement to Trend outlet, the spokesperson for the Ministry said, the cause of death will be known following the thorough examination by forensics and pathology unit.
"On August 8 at around 18.00 Rasim Aliyev was beaten by a group of unknown men in Bayil settlement of Sabail district. He was then placed into a hospital with severe and multiple body injuries. He died August 9 at around 05.00 as a result of sustained injuries.
BAKU. August 7 2015 (Radio Azadliq): Investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova went on trial on August 7 in a packed courtroom in Baku, facing charges of embezzlement, tax evasion, and abuse of power that she says are politically motivated punishment for her dogged reporting.
Dozens of activists, journalists, and some members of the diplomatic corps -- eager to monitor the trial of a journalist who has reported extensively on official corruption in tightly controlled, oil-rich Azerbaijan -- were unable to get inside the courtroom.
The trial comes eight months after the arrest of Ismayilova, a contributor to RFE/RL. Rights groups and Western governments have urged her release from pretrial detention, calling the case part of a persistent campaign by long-ruling President Ilham Aliyev's government to silence dissent.
Ismayilova's relatives were not allowed to be present in the courtroom, and journalists were also kept out. Aside from participants in the process, only some representatives of foreign embassies were allowed to attend.
After the session got under way, Ismayilova's lawyers asked the judge to let their client out of the defendant's glass cage during the trial.
The judge rejected the request, saying that it would be better for her safety to be kept inside the enclosure.
The judge also rejected a defense motion to drop the tax evasion charge. Defense lawyer Fariz Namazli said the charge was imposed despite the fact that a tax inspection was frozen in May, caling that "a sign of particular ill-will."
PRAGUE. August 6, 2015: Seven kilometers west of Moscow along the Rublyevo-Uspenskoye Highway, a three-meter-high green metal fence cuts through the cool pine forest. Behind the fence lies Mayendorf Gardens, a subdivision in the exclusive and secretive Rublevka community that is home to Forbes millionaires, State Duma deputies, and high-ranking public officials.
One of the homeowners is Leyla Aliyeva, the elder daughter of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who is listed in various records as either 30 or 31 years old. Experts told the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) her property is probably worth tens of millions of given that the median value of current houses for sale in the settlement is US$ 37 million.
OCCRP has been tracking the first family’s wealth and the Dacha is just one of the many luxury mansions the Aliyevs own around the world despite Ilham Aliyev having only served as a public servant during most of his life.
WASHINGTON, D.C. August 4, 2015: The House Ethics Committee has dropped its probe into 10 members of Congress who traveled to Baku, Azerbaijan in May 2013 with oil industry money, according to a Friday afternoon press release. The panel passed a trove of documents it collected to the Justice Department for a possible review of actions by parties outside Ethics’ jurisdiction.
But even as the Ethics Committee investigated the matter, its chairman, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), received political contributions from local individuals linked to the nonprofit network involved in the trips. The donations amounted to $8,000 and were given on a single day.
BAKU. August 3, 2015: The trial of two prominent Azerbaijani dissidents was adjourned until the following day, after an ambulance was called to provide medical attention to Arif Yunus. Arif Yunus and his wife Leyla Yunus are prominent human rights defenders and civic organization leaders in Azerbaijan imprisoned for their anti-Aliyev regime activities.Both have been charged with a wide range of offenses from tax evasion to treason and espionage for Armenia.
LONDON. July 30, 2015: A group of international organizations including 89up, Article 19, Committee to Protect Journalists, Index on Censorship, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), International Media Support, Pen American Center, People in Need, Platform, Solidarity with Belarus Information Office, World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) issued a joint statement expressing their concerns over the ongoing repressions in Azerbaijan on an unprecedented scale. Below is the full text of that statement:
A year after the Azerbaijani government launched an unprecedented crackdown on human rights, the situation in the country continues to deteriorate. The Sport for Rights Coalition calls on the international community to immediately and publicly condemn the government of Azerbaijan's actions and take concrete steps to support Azerbaijani civil society.
One year ago, on 30 July 2014, Azerbaijani human rights defender Leyla Yunus was arrested and charged with treason, fraud, forgery, tax evasion, and illegal entrepreneurship. Yunus, the Director of the Institute of Peace and Democracy, was a tireless rights advocate, likely targeted for her work on behalf of Azerbaijan’s many political prisoners, and her call for a boycott of the inaugural European Games, which took place in Baku in June 2015.
Yunus’s arrest marked the start of a period of unprecedented repression in Azerbaijan. The human rights situation in the country has now reached alarming lows as the authorities aggressively pursue the very individuals who worked to defend those already targeted for expressing critical opinions.
On 2 August 2014, human rights defender and founder of the Sport for Rights campaign Rasul Jafarov was arrested on charges of illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion, and abuse of power.
On 5 August 2014, Leyla Yunus’s husband Arif Yunus, a historian and activist in his own right, was arrested, followed by human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev on 8 August 2014, on similar charges.
BAKU. July 30, 2015 (RFE/RL): A high-ranking member of Azerbaijan's opposition Popular Front Party has been sent to jail.
The Baku Court for Serious Crimes found Asif Yusifli guilty of fraud and forgery on July 30 and sentenced him to 7 1/2 years in jail the same day.
Yusifli's co-defendant, Rafiq Huseynov, was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in jail on the same charges.
Yusifli, who was arrested in November, pleaded not guilty and called the case against him a retaliation by the authorities for his political and rights activities.
International and domestic human rights organizations, as well as EU and U.S. officials have expressed deep concern about Azerbaijan's crackdown on oppositionists, rights activists, and journalists in recent years.