The arrest of Anar Mammadli, the head of the Election Monitoring and Democratic Studies Center (EMDS), is of political nature. The authorities punish him for reporting on numerous violations at October’s presidential elections and releasing a report that was used by influential international organizations. It is also an act of intimidating civil society, so that no one dares to criticize the government. This is how the civil society activists and politicians assessed the arrest of Anar Mammadli at December 17 press conference in IRFS press center.
Allegations of tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of power are far-fetched, said the head of the NGO “Law and Development”, Hafiz Hasanov. “Mammadov is charged with using grant funds using his personal taxpayer identification number. It happened because the EMDS did not have a state registration, and Mammadli was forced to act as an individual taxpayer. It is senseless to interpret it as illegal entrepreneurship. The accusation of tax evasion is also unfounded. Because in March and April tax authorities conducted an audit of Mammadli’s activities and no violations were found. Mammadli is persecuted for election monitoring. The authorities did not want any independent engagement in the elections,” said Hasanov.
Investigative journalist, Khadija Ismail, believed that the catalyst for the arrest of Mammadli became the fact that EMDS was selected as a member of the Coordinating Council of Europe monitoring organizations last week at an ODIHR event in Warsaw.
The Poplar Front Party leader Ali Karimli noted that no matter under what pretext Anar Mammadli has been arrested, it is clear that the authorities pursue him for an honest civil position.
“Anar Mammadli is an educated intelligent person, a recognized expert in the field of elections. However, the Azerbaijani authorities are ready to throw in prison anyone who dares to wish for changes, even peacefully. It is also a message to the world community that the authoritarian regime intends to go to Europe with its own rules,” said Karimli. “The West’s position on the pacification of the Azerbaijani regime has caused such a situation. There is a misconception that it is possible gradually reform the regime. This policy has led to the fact that Azerbaijan today has 143 political prisoners, and repression has become of state policy,” said Karimli.
The lawyer, Aslan Ismayilov, proposed to start a protest demanding the release of Mammadli. According to him, you should not rely on the support of the West. “They need our oil, our caviar, and our wealth only,” said Ismayilov.
The Head of the Economic Research Center, Gubad Ibadoglu, said it was absurd to charge Mammadli with economic crimes, when no one is held accountable for the fact that natural monopolies owe $ 2.4 billion to the state budget.
The Head of the National Council, Jamil Hasanli, said on October 9 power was once again usurped in Azerbaijan and the government now seeks to force society to accept the outcome of these falsifications, punishing unwanted people.
Director of the Media Rights Institute Rashid Hajili also said that all charges against Mammadli are unfounded, but the most absurd is the charge under Article 308.2 of the Criminal Code, electoral fraud by abuse of authority. This message caused laughter in the hall.
IRFS Chairman Emin Huseynov said Mammadli’s arrest is inconsistent with the government’s call for dialogue voiced during a human rights forum on December 11. He proposed to create of a group of 30 activists and send it to the PACE winter session in Strasbourg. It is necessary to raise the question of suspension of voting right of Azerbaijan in PACE, and its acceptance for the chairmanship of the CoE Committee of Ministers in May 2014 until all political prisoners are released.
Following the meeting, it was decided to establish the Public Committee to protect Mammadli.
The event was also attended by representatives of the OSCE, the EU, and embassies of the USA, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and other countries.