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Outspoken youth activist arrested for criticising authorities

(IRFS/IFEX) - The Human Rights Club (HRC) strongly condemns the arrest of former parliamentary candidate, youth activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev and Azerbajian Popular Front Party Youth Committee member Dayanat Babayev, and the eviction of 3 NGOs from their offices in Ganja.

Hajiyev was sentenced to 1-month's pre-trial detention on 4 March 2011, for leaving Ganja without official approval (he was not allowed to leave the city under police decree). On the same day, 3 NGOs, including the regional office of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Training Center, Demos Public Union, and Ganja Regional Information Center were forced to leave their offices by executive administration representatives and police employees. Dayanat Babayev disappeared on 4 March; it was later revealed that he has been sentenced to 10 days of administrative detention and that his relatives had not been informed of this. The Nasimi District Court's judgment sounded absurd when it explained the reason for the arrest: "Babayev spoke on the phone very loudly and used inappropriate language."

The HRC outlined the serious legal violations that accompanied the cases. Despite the lack of evidence to show that Hajiyev had left Ganja, he was sentenced to pre-trial detention. None of Hajiyev's motions was granted in the hearing; nor were his lawyers allowed to meet with him. In addition, Hajiyev's statement about being beaten and tortured by police was not investigated. In a separate case, NGOs were driven out of their offices without being given any reason or shown a court decision.

The HRC believes that the pressures on Hajiyev and NGOs are politically motivated. Hajiyev, a former parliamentary candidate in the 2010 parliamentary elections, made speeches critical of the authorities. He was also one of the organizers of the forthcoming nationwide protest meeting, scheduled for 11 March and advertised on Facebook. Hajiyev had also been closely involved in flashmobs arranged by Positive Changes Youth Movement. Babayev was one of the active participants in the protest meetings arranged by APFP Youth Committee; a few days prior to his arrest, he had been detained in front of the same court that dealt with imprisoned youth activist Jabbar Savalanli. He was set free a few hours later with a warning.

The NGOs mentioned above are known for contributing to exposing and lobbying against negative social/political conditions, and encouraging people to express their opinions freely.

The HRC calls on the Azerbaijani government to put an end to these pressures, to immediately release Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, Dayanat Babayev, in addition to Jabbar Savalanli, Ruslan Bashirli, Eynulla Fatullayev and other political prisoners, to allow the NGOs back into their offices, and to refrain from interfering with their activities. The HRC also calls on the international community to pay attention to these issues and to require the Azerbaijani government to put an end to repression.

The Human Rights Club was established on 10 December 2010, by a group of human rights defenders including Emin Huseynov, Sabuhi Gafarov, Rasul Jafarov, Idrak Abbasov, Zohrab Ismayilov, Natig Jafarli and others.

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