Harassment of Muslim community

November 4th, 2015

On November 3, the head of the Muslim Union Movement, Tale Bagirzade, was reportedly assaulted by the Chief of Yasamal District Police Office, Isfendiyar Mehbaliyev, at the District Police Department.

 

Bagirzadeh had already been questioned at the Ministry of National Security for several hours in September. Only two days after Tale Bagirzade had been subjected to pressure, i.e. on November 5, the deputy chairman of the Board of Muslim Union Movement, Elchin Gasimov was detained in front of his house in Mashtaga and taken to the Sabunchu District Police Office. A group of protesters from the Muslim community gathered in front of the Police Office demanding Gasimov’s release, which led to a clash with police. Around two dozen people were detained. The area was blockaded and journalists were not allowed to film. The police violently broke up the protest and the detained persons were allegedly tortured.

Lawyer Javad Javadov went to the Sabunchu Police Office to meet with Elchin Gasimov on November 6, according to Javadov, who  said that he was denied a meeting despite having a valid lawyer’s warrant.

On November 6, Sabunchu District Court convicted Elchin Gasimov under Article 310 of the Administrative Offences Code (resisting police) without waiting for his lawyer to arrive. He was sentenced to 30-days’ administrative arrest. After the hearing, Gasimov told the lawyer that he was not guilty.

On November 6, Sabunchu District Court held a hearing on the case of the Muslim protesters arrested by officers from Sabunchu District Main Police Office. The court sentenced believers Sahil Rzayev to 15 days, Teymur Osmanov to 15 days, Elvin Bunyatov to 15 days, Latif Ahmadov to 10 days, Anar Aliyev to 30 days, Sahib Habibov to 30 days, and Niftali Valiyev to 20 days in jail. They were convicted under Articles 298 (violation of the order on organizing and holding gatherings) and 310 (willful failure to obey a police officer) of the Code of Administrative Offences.

 

Previously, Elkhan Isgandarov and Agaali Yahyayev, both Muslims, were sentenced to 15 days and 30 days in jail respectively.

 

The Prosecutor General’s Office and Ministry of Internal Affairs issued a joint statement on the issue. According to the statement, a group of 60 people describing themselves as followers of a religious movement gathered in front of the administrative building of a police authority and attempted to hold an unsanctioned rally demanding their release. Despite officers’ warnings to cease actions aimed at disturbing the public order, the participants of the illegal rally continued their unlawful actions and shouted abuse at the employees of internal affairs bodies. They resisted the security guards using rocks and blunt tools, and as a result, two police officers sustained bodily injuries

The Muslim Union Movement  was established in January 2015. The head of the organization, Tale Bagirzade, had earlier been arrested twice and his activity clearly raises flags with the authorities.  Members of the Muslim community were previously arrested for protesting against the hijab ban, and some local organizations and human rights defenders consider them political prisoners.[1] Observers have suggested that these developments indicate a government strategy to undermine religious freedoms, to show EU institutions that religious freedom leads to unrest.