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Azerbaijan Without Political Prisoners Alliance organized a press conference at the headquarters of the opposition party Musavat. The event was dedicated to the recently released former political prisoners.
Ogtay Gulaliyev, coordinator of the Alliance, opened the event with the speech stressing that still many political prisoners remain behind the bars and that the Alliance was committed to continue the struggle until the last political prisoner is released.
Former prisoner, journalist Tofig Yagublu, who was also participating in the press conference, said it was President Ilham Aliyev who was behind the problem of political prisoners.
REAL Movement chairman Ilgar Mammadov and Tofig Yagublu were arrested on February 4, 2013, following the protests that took place in the north-west of Azerbaijan (Ismayilli) on January 23, 2013. The protesters set “Chirag” Hotel and 4 cars on fire. The protests broke out after the traffic accident caused by Chirag Hotel employee, resident of Baku Emil Shamsaddinov. Shamsaddinov, who was driving drunk and his passenger started a fight with Ismayilli resident Ramil Bakirov, beating him up, causing injuries and insulting the local residents in front of the crowd observing the incident. More than 15 people, who had participated in the protests, as well as Emil Shamsaddinov and Elmaddin Mammadov, were later arrested. Ilgar Mammadov and Tofig Yagublu travelled to Ismayilli one day after the protests, on January 24, in their capacity as a political figure and a journalist, to get firsthand information from locals about what had happened. Tofig Yagublu and Ilgar Mammadov were initially charged under Articles 233 (organization of actions promoting infringement of the public order or active participation in such actions) and 315 (resistance to a representative of authority) of the Criminal Code. Later, the charge under Article 233 was dropped, and a new charge under Article 220.1 (organization of mass disorders accompanied by violence, pillage, arson or destruction of property or participation in such disorders) was brought against them. On March 17, 2014, Shaki Grave Crimes Court sentenced Ilgar Mammadov to 7 years and Tofig Yagublu to 5 years in jail. The appeal against the court’s verdict was rejected by the Shaki Court of Appeal. On October 13, 2015, Supreme Court referred their case back to Shaki Court of Appeal for reconsideration.
Tofig Yagublu was released under the president’s pardon decree of March 17, 2016.
Tofig Yagublu said politically motivated arrests are sanctioned by Ilham Aliyev himself, who also personally decides which prisoners should be released. “In response to the question relating to Ilgar Mammadov’s case asked during the PACE session in June 2014, Ilham Aliyev said that Azerbaijan is included in the legal system of the European Court and if there is the decision to release Ilgar Mammadov, it will be implemented. However, Ilgar Mammadov is still in prison despite the numerous calls by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to execute the European Court’s judgment to release Ilgar Mammadov since the judgment was upheld by the European Court’s Grand Chamber,” Tofig Yagublu said.