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Families of human rights defenders under attack in Azerbaijan
The Azerbaijani regime is trying to silence human rights defenders in exile by targeting their families and loved ones – those whom they were forced to leave behind.
On 22 July, Ganimat Zahid, the Editor-in-Chief of Azadliq newspaper currently in exile in France, issued an official statement regarding the authorities’ actions against his relatives:
“Everyone knows that the government has recently launched a wave of repressions against my relatives in Azerbaijan and that they are being arrested.
I cannot predict how long this process will last, or who else will face harassment or groundless arrest. In order to predict the outcome, I would have to share this tribal mentality, which I cannot.
On 22y, Ganimat Zahid, the Editor-in-Chief of Azadliq newspaper currently in exile in France, issued an official statement regarding the authorities’ actions against his relatives:
“Everyone knows that the government has recently launched a wave of repressions against my relatives in Azerbaijan and that they are being arrested. I cannot predict how long this process will last, or who else will face harassment or groundless arrest. In order to predict the outcome, I would have to share this tribal mentality, which I cannot.
As I have said repeatedly, my relatives have nothing to do with my work. The authorities are fully aware of this, but they believe that by arresting and tormenting my relatives, they can force me give up my work.
The fates of the political prisoners in Azerbaijan – more than 100 – are no less important than my relatives. I regard the government’s repressive campaign against my relatives as an act of state terror. I have taken into consideration that my relatives face not only the risk of arrest, but also physical threats as part of this campaign. However, I am not willing to cease my activities, and I will not do so.
To the contrary, given this extreme reaction from the authorities to a television program that is aired for just two hours per week, I am investigating the possibility of increasing the frequency of Azerbaijan Hour. I believe that it is crucial to increase the number of broadcasts, given the information needs of the Azerbaijani people.
I believe that journalists in exile and my compatriots – who are committed to bringing freedom of speech to Azerbaijan – will hear me and support me.
No degree of pressure and no measure of terror can curb the desire for freedom! I apologize to my relatives who are subjected to this pressure, and I tell them that they can blame me. They can also stand by those who condemn this terrorism; either way I will not intervene with their choice.”
Background: on 21 July, Ganimat Zahid’s cousin Rovshan Zahidov was arrested and sentenced to 25 days in detention. The journalist’s nephew, Tural Zahidov, had already been arrested prior to this, and sentenced to a 30-day detention term. Immediately afterwards, yet another of Zahid’s nephews, Rufat Zahidov, was detained (on 20 July). He is being charged under article 234.4.1 of the Criminal Code (manufacturing, purchase, storage, transfer, transportation or selling drug with a view to illegal manufacturing and processing of narcotics or psychotropic substances, on preliminary arrangement by a group of persons or anorganized group).
Rufat Zahidov’s father, Feraset Zahidov, said that his son had been taken to the Main Drug Enforcement Department of the Interior Ministry. “They claimed they found five grams of heroin in his pocket and car. This is sheer nonsense. My son has been arrested in relation to my brother Ganimat Zahid’s journalistic activity. The arrests of my other nephews and cousins make this clear. They are now after my brother Afgan’s son,” Feraset Zahidov said.
Ganimat Zahid reported the arrests on his program Azerbaijan Hour, and declared that he would not cease his activities in the face of this pressure.
In another example, the brother-in-law of Meydan TV director and exiled activist Emin Milli, Nazim Agabayov, was arrested on Monday. Agabayov faces charges of drug dealing.
On his Facebook page, Emin Milli called this charge trumped-up and absurd: “It is common practice of Aliyev’s terror regime to punish people through their relatives and family members. The European Union, the United States, Britain, Germany and other European governments watch this happen in silence, because they do not want to break their ties with this criminal regime. They want to continue their commercial relations and earn money.”
Emin Milli said what had happened was intended to silence him personally, as well as Meydan TV. He added that even if he or all of his family members are killed, he won’t stop: “No one can stop me from telling the truth.”