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Coronavirus vs. Azerbaijan’s Opposition – Meydan.TV

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The lawyer argues that procedural regulations were also violated in the cases of opposition members arrested. “Their defense lawyers were not invited to the court, nor were they given enough time to develop defense tactics. The trials were conducted in a hurry,” Samira Agayev says, listing regulations violated.

“Punishment” for visiting Karimli

Journalists who visited Ali Karimli’s house were also persecuted during the quarantine.

Unidentified men beat journalist Teymur Karimov after he left the house of the opposition party leader. The journalist said after the incident that he had his video camera broken and the memory card with video of his interview with Karimli taken away from him.

Police detained one more journalist, Tazakhan Miralamli, after he left Karimli’s house and took him to the Khatai district police department in Baku.

“When I left his house, I noticed that I was under surveillance. I signaled to the driver of the car waiting for me to go, and I decided to walk. I walked slowly. There is a school there near the house. Near the school, three plainclothes police officers got out of a car that was following me and told me to get in the car. As soon as I got in the car, they took my phone away from me,” Tazakhan Miralamli told Meydan TV.

The journalist was taken to the police at about 6pm and released at about 11pm.

“Revenge on the opposition”

Giorgi Gogia, the Human Rights Watch director for the South Caucasus, says that “we need to touch on several points when it comes to the use of measures by the Azerbaijani government to fight coronavirus as a means of putting pressure on opposition representatives”.

“First, we see here that the government made it possible for coronavirus-related measures to be used to take revenge on the opposition.

Second, Human Rights Watch has repeatedly said that most of the persons were arrested on administrative charges and that the administrative legal proceedings were conducted superficially.

It is obvious that the commitments that the Azerbaijani government was supposed to ensure were not honored during the trial, which took place immediately after the arrest of these persons. That is, during their arrest or during the investigation or the trial, these persons do not have a lawyer or their lawyers are appointed by the state. In many cases, these individuals are denied the right to choose a lawyer. All these issues worry HRW,” Gogia said.

He said that Azerbaijan is the only South Caucasus country where pressure is exerted on the opposition as part of methods used to fight coronavirus.

“Human Rights Watch has recorded abuse of the fight against coronavirus by the governments of different countries of the world.

“My work covers the three South Caucasus countries, and I have not seen other countries use measures to fight coronavirus to silence opposition activists,” the human rights expert said.

Giorgi Gogia stressed that arrests should be seen as the last resort during the pandemic.

“Arrests during the pandemic may lead to the spread of the virus. Some UN agencies and the Council of Europe have recommended that arrests be considered the last option.”

Azerbaijan announced on 18 May that it was easing the quarantine. The regulation under which one needed SMS permission to go outside was repealed.

The Azerbaijani opposition, however, has no hope that the easing of the quarantine will be followed by the “easing” of their persecution.

“As long as the quarantine continues, the Azerbaijani government will also continue to exert pressure on people and persecute them. There will be arrests, too. However, frankly speaking, I do not think that they will end when the quarantine ends,” Karimli said.

On 18 May, the day the quarantine was eased, it was reported that one more member of the opposition was detained. Niyamaddin Ahmadov, an activist from the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), was to be released on 16 May after 30 days of administrative arrest to which he was sentenced “for violating the quarantine”. However, on the same day, fresh charges – “financing of terrorism” – were filed against the opposition member. He has now been sentenced to a measure of restraint in the form of arrest for a period of four months.

/Produced with the help of the Russian Language News Exchange

Meydan

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