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End legal proceedings against Azerbaijani lawyer, say rights groups

(RSF/IFEX) - 26 July 2012 - In an open letter to the president of Turkey, RSF and other rights groups urge the president to immediately and unconditionally end the legal proceedings against Azerbaijani lawyer Intigam Aliyev:

Mr. President,

The undersigned members and partners of the Human Rights House Network and the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders call upon you to ensure that all charges against Azerbaijani human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev are immediately and unconditionally dropped and compensation for the acts of ill-treatment he suffered in Ataturk Airport provided.

On 6 December 2011, on his way back to Baku, Azerbaijan, from Vilnius, Lithuania, where he took part in the Civil Society Parallel Event organised by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Intigam Aliyev was at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, to catch a connecting flight to Baku. After an altercation with a customs officer, Intigam Aliyev's ticket was invalidated by the officer, Huseyin Kunt, and he was detained and kept in a closed room for about four hours. During his detention, he was insulted and intimidated by police officers.

Intigam Aliyev immediately informed the Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF) that he was being held in detention at the Ataturk airport. The Helsinki Citizens' Assembly in Istanbul sent lawyers to assist Intigam Aliyev at the airport late that night. The Istanbul Bar Association was also involved in this case. Several international organizations sent appeals and called on the Turkish authorities to release him.

On 7 December 2011 at 12:00, Intigam Aliyev was told that he would be deported from Turkey at 20:30 the same day.

That same day, whilst held in custody, Intigam Aliyev was beaten and injured by immigration officers, and repeatedly threatened not to speak out. He was beaten in a small room by Alaittin Sarıkaya, one of two civilian immigration officers who accompanied Intigam Aliyev, after he requested that his passport be returned to him. Servet Erkaraca, the other immigration officer, witnessed the beating and threatened Aliyev. When Intigam Aliyev asked them to be polite, he was taken to the police office where he was beaten on his head and body by the same officer, Alittin Sarikaya, in the presence of seven other civilian policemen and Servet Erkaraca.

Despite the lawyers' insistence before Aliyev's deportation, he was not provided with any documents or a detailed explanation related to his deportation or his arrest. He was not allowed to meet his lawyers on 7 December 2011. Intigam Aliyev was sent back to Baku on 7 December 2011, where he underwent a medical examination.

On 16 December 2011, Intigam Aliyev's lawyers filed a complaint with the Turkish Prosecutor's Office about the deportation and beatings. They requested the provision of CCTV footage from the airport on 6-7 December 2011. The complaint was rejected due to “lack of evidence.”

In early July 2012, Intigam Aliyev was called to the Nasimi District Court and the Yasamal District Court of the Republic of Azerbaijan, where he was informed about the order of the Bakirkoy Sulh Court and Bakirkoy Asliye Court of the Republic of Turkey, stating that criminal charges were brought against him by the Prosecutor's Office of Bakirkoy for obstructing an officer from performing his duties (art. 265.1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Turkey), insult (art. 106.1), and threats (art.125.3a), on the basis of the complaints of immigration officers Servet Erkaraca, and Alaittin Sarikaya, and police officer Huseyin Kunt.

It later became known that the criminal case had been opened against Intigam Aliyev on 6 December 2011, when he was detained at the Istanbul Airport. He and his lawyers in Turkey had not been informed about it and did not receive any written information about these charges until 6 July 2012.

Intigam Aliyev is a well-known human rights lawyer, both in Azerbaijan and internationally. He has brought over 200 cases of his clients, including prominent journalists, to the European Court of Human Rights. As the Head of the Legal Education Society, he is an active and reliable partner for all member and partner NGOs of the Human Rights House Network and the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders. He is also a member of the Civil Platform of the Eastern Partnership.

As a victim of violence and arbitrary detention by security forces at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Intigam Aliyev should be protected by the State.

We therefore call upon the authorities of the Republic of Turkey to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally drop all criminal charges against human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev;
  • Fully compensate Intigam Aliyev for the ill-treatment he suffered at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul and for the moral and financial damages;
  • Undertake an independent investigation into the accusations of ill-treatment of Intigam Aliyev, and bring those responsible to justice.
Yours sincerely,

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