Faig Amirli, the commercial director of the opposition newspaper Azadlig, has received a 30-day administrative arrest sentence after he allegedly violated the quarantine regime recently set up by the authorities amid the intensified COVID-19 measures in Azerbaijan.
The court decision comes a day after he was reportedly abducted from the front of his house.
“Three cars stopped, they grabbed him by the neck and put him into the car,” his wife Lala Amirli said on her Facebook post on 8 April.
As Amirli was taken away by plainclothes officers, his wife called the 102 hotline, and received a response that the case is “under investigation.”
Later she received information that Amirli had been taken to the Sabail District Court because he allegedly violated the strict quarantine regime set in order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 in Azerbaijan on 5 April.
Attempts to reach out to Ehsan Zahidov, spokesperson of the Interior Ministry, were unsuccesful.
Amirli was previously detained on 20 August 2016 and charged with violating the rights of citizens inciting national, racial, social, religious hatred and hostility under the guise of performing religious rites. He was arrested with an alleged link to US-based imam Fethullha Gulen, an ally-turned-opponent of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He was later charged with tax evasion.
Amirli was sentenced to more than three years in prison by the same Sabail District Court. He was released with a decision by the Baku Court of Appeals in 2017.
In the meantime, former political prisoner and human rights activist Ilkin Rustamzade has expressed his concern over the risk of getting arrested amid the newly launched pandemic measures.
On 7 April, police officers paid a visit to the apartment where Rustamzade has been officially registered and started asking about his whereabouts. When his family members said that Rustamzade had moved, the police stated that it was illegal and that Rustamzade violated the rules of the quarantine regime.
Rustamzade says he moved into another apartment on 2 April, when there were no quarantine regime set in the country.
Rustamzade prepared a petition several days ago on social media with a call to support the proposal to allocate 300 AZN as a social benefit to each citizen for a period of quarantine.
In late March, another opposition leader, Tofig Yagublu, was sentenced to three months in prison.
The tightened measures against civil society in Azerbaijan come days after President Aliyev stated in his address that “the isolation of representatives of the fifth column, or opposition, is “a historic necessity” amid the state of emergency to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.