Activists call on international community to save Saleh Rustamov

A large group of civil society activists of the country have appealed to international organizations, calling to support political prisoner Saleh Rustamov who has been on a long hunger strike.

“The purpose of our appeal is to inform about serious political and legal problems of the Azerbaijani society, and request to make all efforts to help us overcome the crisis,” the appeal reads.

The authors deplore the fact that there are more than 100 political prisoners in the country.

Rustamov’s arrest and conviction was accompanied by serious violations of the law. He was detained in May 2018 by officers of the main department for combating organised crime under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. At the same time, his relatives were not informed for a long time about his detention and he had access to the lawyer. 

It has to be noted that Rustamov was subjected to horrific tortures to extract evidence against the opposition.  Intially he was icharged with drug trafficking and later with organising a criminal association.

The investigation was accompanied by massive irregularities but was “corroborated” by the court. Rustamov was sentenced to 7 years and 3 months of imprisonment, and the property of all his family members, including his paternal home, was confiscated.

The higher courts continued the unlawful and politically motivated treatment of Rustamov.  

His hunger strike has continued for more than 30 days and with each passing day he is nearing death, a man whose guilt has not been confirmed. Rustamov has lost 15 kg in weight and has difficulty in walking and talking.  No appropriate medical care has so far been provided to him.

It should be emphasized thast “S.Rustamov’s case is one of the worst examples of the Azerbaijani government’s policy of eliminating and subjugating its rivals, and is of serious concern for the entire society which wants the country to get democratised and have a prosperous future.

These concerns were expressed on 1 December during a peaceful rally in Baku to protest against the lawlessness in respect of Rustamov which was violently suppressed by the police.  40 peaceful protesters were detained, including five arrested administratively.

Several detainees were subjected to unwarranted physical tortures, including opposition politician Tofig Yagublu.  Another opposition politician, Pasha Dadashzadeh, a member of the Party of People’s Front of Azerbaijan (PPFA), had his arm broken,” the statement reads.

To conclude, the authors are calling on the progressive democratic public, states and individuals to spare no effort in reminding the Azerbaijani government of its commitment to fundamental human rights, to eliminate the consequences of the lawlessness against Rustamov, and to release him from detention.

About 100 people – activists, journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, experts and others – have signed the appeal.

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