The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the sentencing and ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Elchin Mammad, human rights lawyer, 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, as well as the Editor-in-chief of the newspaper Yukselish Namine, which publishes articles on human rights concerns in the country.
According to the information received, on October 14, 2020, the Sumgait City Court sentenced Mr. Elchin Mammad to four years in prison under trumped-up charges of “theft causing significant damage” (Article 177.2.4 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan) and “illegal purchase and possession of firearm accessories”(Article 228. 1 of the same Code).
The Observatory is concerned about the circumstances in which the verdict was handed down which suggest that Mr. 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(see background information).Mr. Elchin Mammad’s lawyer already expressed his intention to appeal the decision.
The Observatory further deplores that the case of Mr. Elchin Mammad is only emblematic of the serious and widespread abuses and intimidation of human rights activists in Azerbaijan, where a decades-long crackdown on human rights defenders has considerably curtailed civic space in the country.
The Observatory stronglycondemns the sentencing and continuing arbitrary detention of Mr. Elchin Mammad, which appears to be only aimed at sanctioning him for his legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory further deplores that the arbitrary detention of Mr. Mammad puts him at high risk of contracting Covid-19 in view of the overcrowding and poor prison conditions in Azerbaijan, while Mr. Mammad’s health has already deteriorated during his pre-trial detention (see background information).
The Observatory calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to guarantee the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Elchin Mammad, to immediately and unconditionally release him, and to put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all human rights defenders in the country.
Mr. Elchin Mammad has faced harassment from the authorities in connection with his human rights work since 2015, when authorities launched an investigation into his organisation. He was subjected to arbitrary detention , and on several occasions summoned and questioned by the police. He was also placed under travel restrictions in connection with the investigation.
On March 30, 2020, the police arrested Mr. Elchin Mammad at his home in the city of Sumgait, a few days after he had published online a critical report on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. The police claimed to have found stolen jewellery worth 7,500 manats (around 4,070 euros) at his office.
On March 31, Sumgait City Court remanded Mr. Elchin Mammad in custody for three months as a criminal suspect under Article 177.2.4 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan(“theft causing significant damage”).
Additional charges under Article 228. 1 of the Criminal Code (“illegal purchase and possession of firearm accessories”) were subsequently brought against him, as the police allegedly found ammunitions during a second search of the SULESY offices while he was in detention.
Mr. Elchin Mammad was to be released on June 30, 2020. Yet the Sumgait City Court extended his detention on remand of the duration of the trial and rejected on several occasions his lawyer’s request for him to be placed under house arrest, while Mr. Mammad health has seriously deteriorated in detention where he developed kidney issues and experienced swollen legs whereas he already suffered from Hepatitis C.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Azerbaijan asking them to:
i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Elchin Mammadas well as of all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan;
ii. Release immediately and unconditionally Mr. Elchin Mammad as well as all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the country;
iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Elchin Mammadas well as against all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1, 6(a), 9, 11 and 12.2;
v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Azerbaijan.
· Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
· Mr. Kyamran Aliev, Prosecutor General of the Republic of Azerbaijan, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, E-mail: email@example.com
· Mr. Fikrat F. Mammadov, Minister of Justice in Azerbaijan, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
· H.E. Mr. Vagif I Sadigov, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the United Nations in Geneva, E-mail: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Azerbaijan in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Azerbaijan.