The jailed director of the Legal Education Society, human rights defender Intigam Aliyev, has been honored with the Human Rights Award of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE). The human rights defender’s son Najmin Kamil received the prize on behalf of his father at the annual reporting conference of the organization in Vienna. Intigam Aliyev was arrested on August 8, 2014, found guilty on charges of illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion, misappropriation, abuse of official powers and service forgery. He was sentenced to 7.5 years in jail on April 22, 2015.
Intigam Aliyev’s letter from prison was read out during the award ceremony:
“Dear friends, I want to extend my gratitude to those who nominated me for this award and supported me, for their confidence in me and for making me, my relatives and my friends so happy. In the 21st century, there still remain some countries where human rights are regarded harmful, and where people engaged in human rights activities are considered dangerous and are persecuted, killed and jailed. Unfortunately, the situation of human rights remains dire in my country, too. At this very moment, I proudly remember dozens of my friends – journalists, youth activists, politicians and human rights defenders – who have been jailed for their beliefs in my country. I see this award as a symbol of the support and value attached to my imprisoned friends and to civil society, which is continue to function against all odds. I also remember my colleagues who have been thrown in jail for their professional activities in various parts of the world. Advocacy has become a risky profession in some countries. In my country, there are lawyers who have shouldered heavy burdens such as defending political prisoners risking their lives and liberties. They are real heroes. They rightly deserve a share of this prize. After being arrested, I received a letter of support from one of my friends. The letter ended with this sentence “Our love is stronger than their hatred.” Shortly afterwards, she herself was arrested. She is the journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who has become the symbol of free speech and heroism not only in Azerbaijan, but also in places far from its borders. Despite heavy censorship, I still receive letters full of love from Khadija, from my other friends who are in prison or outside, from people I know as well as those I don’t know, and continue to write back to them. Stay strong my friends. Our love is stronger than their hatred, because the values that we rely on are peace, democracy and human rights, while their values are hunger for power and violence. I once again extend my deepest appreciation and respect to the CCBE for attaching such a high value to my work.”
Intigam Aliyev has previously received awards from People in Need, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the International Bar Association.