Mammadov, Figure of the Azerbaijani Opposition, Is Still in Prison
“Here in prison it is particularly striking to see how the international community is ridiculously trying to play by civilized rules with the rich Azerbaijani dictatorship, while the latter is laughing right in the face of that community and of its own citizens.“
Ilgar Mammadov is a prominent figure of the Azerbaijani opposition, as well as a reputable political scientist and commentator. He is the leader of the opposition REAL movement and has been politically active for the past seventeen years. Prior to his arrest, he had announced his intention to run for president in the 2013 elections.
In January 2013, a riot erupted in the town of Ismayilli, located some 150 km north-west of the country’s capital, Baku. The unrest was triggered by a conflict between a local taxi driver and the son of the Minister of Labor over a traffic accident. The initially minor quarrel quickly transformed into a violent mass-protest against the local government during which the protesters set fire to the district governor’s house, cars, and a local motel. The riots were quelled by the police and dozens of people were detained.
Ilgar Mammadov and another opposition politician, the deputy chairman of the Musavat Party Tofig Yaqublu, separately visited Ismayilli to meet the protesters only a day after the violent riots. Upon his return to Baku, Mr. Mammadov shared his experience on his blog, where he blamed the local authorities for the escalation of the conflict and accused the government of using disproportionate force to suppress the protest.
On February 4th, despite the fact they were not physically in town on the day of the riots, Mr. Mammadov and Mr. Yaqublu were detained and charged with organizing a mass disorder and resisting arrest.
After their detention, both men were held for more than one year in pre-trial custody, allegedly in order to prevent them from fleeing. On March 17, 2014, Ilgar Mammadov and Tofiq Yaqublu were sentenced to seven and five years of imprisonment, respectively, on charges of "having organized or participated in mass disorders" and using violence against police officers“ – charges which the prosecution failed to provide any substantial evidence for during the trial.
In October 2014, the European Court of Human Rights found that Mr. Mammadov was arrested on politically-motivated charges and called for his immediate release. The Court also ordered Azerbaijan to pay Mr. Mammadov 20,000 euros in damages. The verdict has been so far ignored by Azerbaijan‘s authorities.
According to Mr. Mammadov´s lawyer, there have been several attempts by prison officials to push him to sign a request for a presidential pardon. However, Mr. Mammadov has refused to do it, stating that it would mean confessing his alleged “guilt.”