Azerbaijan news

Imprisoned oppositionist on hunger strike for three months

This article originally appeared on JAMNews on 09 May 2023.

An oppositionist in Azerbaijan has been on a hunger strike for more than three months in protest of his illegal arrest. Alizamin Salaev, a member of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), was accused of hooliganism, claims that his arrest was a political order, and demands unconditional release.

“If he were a corrupt official, a criminal, he would be released”

PFPA chairman Ali Karimli wrote on his Facebook page today:

“If Alizamin Salaev had been a corrupt deputy minister and embezzled 1.8 million manats in state funds, Ilham Aliyev would have pardoned him yesterday. If Alizamin Bey had been an employee of the Ministry of National Security, if he had committed racketeering and other malfeasance, he would have been pardoned yesterday. If Alizamin Bey were not an official but just an ordinary criminal, he would still have a chance to be pardoned.

But Alizamin Bey is not a corrupt official, he is not a criminal, he demands rights and justice from the authorities and not only for himself but for ordinary people. So although he is on the verge of death, the “humanitarianism” of the authorities does not apply to him. Alizamin Bey, who is on his 92nd day of hunger strike, is being killed because he is a political prisoner and not a corrupt official or an ordinary criminal.

We demand freedom for Alizamin bey!”

Yesterday, May 8, on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of ex-president Heydar Aliyev, the head of state pardoned 801 convicts. Among them, only 8 people are considered political prisoners by human rights activists. Alizamin Salaev is not among these eight.

What happened?

Alizamin Salaev, chairman of the Salyan district branch of the PFPA, was detained on February 7 this year. A criminal case was initiated against him under article 221.3 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism – with the use of weapons or objects used as weapons against the victim). Salaev faced up to 5 years in prison.

Salaev’s health is currently critical. According to his lawyer Fakhraddin Mehdiyev, who met with Salayev in the Baku Detention Center No. 1, where he is being held, dangerous complications are observed in his health.

“Blood pressure 80/60. He has lost a lot of weight (45 kilograms); when he was placed in a pre-trial detention center, he weighed 118 kilograms, and now weighs 73 kilograms. He is in acute pain. He walks with difficulty. The staff of the isolation ward led him to me, holding his hand. He complains of sharp pains in the stomach, kidneys and heart,” the lawyer told Voice of America.

“Salaev says: either freedom or death”

Mehdiyev said they were forcibly injecting the PFPA activist with drugs.

“Salaev is very dissatisfied with this. He stated that if this continues, he will resist and go on a dry hunger strike (refuse water).”

The lawyer also noted that representatives of the Ombudsman, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Red Cross met with Salaev, but did not change their attitude towards him.

“Many people, lawyers, relatives ask him to stop the hunger strike. But Salaev says that he is not guilty of anything, the accusation against him is fictitious. He insists that he will starve to the end. “Either freedom or death,” he says. Despite this, our petitions to change the preventative measure were not granted,” he said.

Salaev has been transferred to solitary confinement in a pre-trial detention center and is under medical supervision. On April 23 he fell into a coma, but after the intervention of doctors came to. His relatives and party comrades fear that he may lose his life at any moment.

Trial has begun

On May 2 a preliminary hearing on the criminal case of Alizamin Salayev was held at the Garadagh District Court of Baku.

At the session presided over by Judge Rufan Mursalov, lawyer Nemat Karimli objected to the judge. In addition, the lawyers filed motions to dismiss the criminal case and replace the sentence of detention with house arrest.

“The judge denied the motion. The judge announced his own grounds for dismissing motions. And this is within the competence of the prosecutor. In this regard, we believe that he will not be able to hold a fair trial. After consulting with the client, they objected as his lawyers. Of course, this petition was also rejected,” Nemat Karimli told Voice of America.

Salaev spoke at the trial. He once again stated that his arrest is related to political activities and is a political attack.

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