The Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum has expressed its concern about President Ilham Aliyev’s use of the COVID-19 emergency to bolden his power in Azerbaijan, condemning an “emerging pattern of politically motivated attacks on Azerbaijani civil society.”
Calling the newly launched crackdown on civil movements in Azerbaijan “unacceptable” the Steering Committe says “any limitations on the movements of Azerbaijan’s citizens, adopted ostensibly in response to the ongoing global pandemic, are likely to be abused to the benefit of the ruling regime.”
“Indeed, the arrest on 22 March of Tofig Yagublu – a member of the opposition Musavat political party and the National Council of Democratic Forces – represents a worrying prelude to what may be to come,” the statement adds.
President Aliyev announced, in his annual Novruz address, a state of emergency to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the country when he clearly called for “the isolation of representatives of the fifth column”, meaning opposition members and dissident voices, saying it would be “a historic necessity.”
Days later Yagublu was detained and charged with “hooliganism.” Yagublu faces between 3 and 7 years’ imprisonment.