Reporters Without Borders has condemned the 2.5-year jail sentence imposed on online activist Jabbar Savalan on a trumped up charge of drug possession. The 20-year-old was convicted for possession of 0.74g of marijuana.
“Jabbar Savalan is a victim of the repression that is directed against all those who oppose President Aliyev’s government,” said Reporters Without Borders. “This young man is innocent and his arrest aims to silence those who criticize the ruling regime. With the intent to silence the youths who are critical of the ruling regime, the authorities use trumped up charges such as hooliganism, violation of traffic rules, speaking too loudly on the phone in public and so on. This is why president Aliyev has been included in the ‘Predators of the Press’ list.
Reporters Without Borders called for Savalan’s immediate and unconditional release and the overturning of his conviction. The persecution of activists and harassment of journalists must stop, says the statement.
Amnesty International also condemned the sentence on Savalanli and deemed it false.
“Nothing was found on Savalanli when he was arrested in the street. The drugs were found on him in police department. All the evidence points to the fact that Jabbar Savalan has been convicted on trumped up charges, and that the main reason for the arrest is his involvement in calling people to participate in protests,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director at Amnesty International.
Human Rights Watch also condemned the arrest of Savalanli and called it a strangling of critical voices. “That such wild repressions occur in a Council of State Member State is shameful,” Rachel Denber, acting Europe and Central Asia Director at Human Rights Watch. She added that Vidadi Isgandarov, who unveiled incidences of fraud during the 2010 parliamentary elections risks becoming another political prisoner in near future.
The US Embassy to Azerbaijan also commented on the arrest of youth activist. Savalan’s arrest after he posted comments on Facebook calling for protests make some observers doubt the validity of the charges brought against him and the independence of the judicial system, says the statement, as reported by Radio Liberty. The United States of America supports the consolidation of democratic bodies and legal norms in Azerbaijan. The judicial bodies are asked to consider Savalanli’s appeal in accordance with the laws and international obligations undertaken by Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan Popular Front Party member Jabbar Savalanli was arrested on February 5, 2011. He is being charged with drug possession, but it is widely thought that his arrest was politically motivated, linked to criticism of the government he posted on social networking sites. Journalist Eynulla Fatullayev is also is in prison for the drug possession.