Geneva-Paris, May 26, 2023 – Azerbaijani human rights lawyer and journalist Elchin Mammad was released on May 9 following a presidential pardon from Ilham Aliyev. The Observatory (OMCT-FIDH) welcomes his release but recalls that he should never have been detained in the first place, and urges the authorities to provide him reparations for his unlawful detention.
Elchin Mammad is a human rights lawyer and the President of the Social Union of Legal Education of Sumgait Youth (SULESY), an NGO providing free legal assistance to low-income families and non-profits. At the time of his arrest, he was also the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Yukselish Namine, which publishes articles on human rights concerns in the country.
Mr Mammad was apprehended by police officers at his home in the city of Sumgait on March 30, 2020, following the online publication of a report criticising the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. In October 2020, the Sumgait City Court sentenced him to four years in prison on fabricated charges of “theft causing significant damage” and “illegal purchase and possession of firearm accessories” (Articles 177.2.4 and 228.1 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan). The police claimed to have found stolen jewelry and ammunition in his office.
The circumstances in which the verdict was handed down suggest that Elchin Mammad did not benefit from a fair trial. The evidence heard at the trial was inconsistent and should not have led to Mr Mammad's conviction, while the investigation phase also appears to have been marred by police tampering of evidence. Yet, for over three years, all his appeals against the prison sentence, as well as his multiple requests to commute it, were rejected by the courts. His lawyer submitted Mr Mammad’s case to the European Court of Human Rights, which has not yet ruled on it.
During his more than three years of detention, Mr Mammad’s health deteriorated due to the lack of adequate medical care provided in prison. He suffers from Hepatitis C, has developed kidney issues, and experienced swollen legs. His medical condition deteriorated due to a hunger strike that Mr Mammad went on during his time in prison.
On November 24, 2021, he was transferred from Prison No. 14 of the Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice to pre-trial detention centre No. 1 in Kurdakhani, where he had no access to a bed for some days due to severe overcrowding in the facilities.
The Observatory welcomes the release of Elchin Mammad but underlines that he should never have been detained in the first place, as his sentencing and imprisonment were arbitrary and merely aimed at punishing him for his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.
The Observatory urges the authorities of Azerbaijan to protect Elchin Mammad’s and his family’s physical integrity and psychological well-being. The Observatory further calls on the authorities to provide them with adequate compensation and other reparations for his arbitrary deprivation of liberty, including any necessary medical assistance.