Lawyers Appeal to President over the Torture of Rufat Safarov

Well-known lawyers Matlab Mutallimli, Bahruz Bayramov, Namizad Safarov, Muzaffar Bakhishov, Gurban Mammadov and Atakhan Abilov, have addressed an appeal to President Ilham Aliyev concerning jailed former investigator Rufat Safarov.

The petition’s text reads as follows:

“We, members of the Lawyers’ group, express our grave concerns about the on-going and systematic psychological pressure and torture against Rufat Safarov, a former investigator arrested and sentenced to a nine-year prison sentence for his political views. In particular, despite being transferred to Prison #9 only recently, he has been reprimanded and then placed in solitary confinement for seven days. Having heard about this, two members of the lawyers’ group immediately went to Prison #9 on 19 January 2017, and met with the prison management. As the prison chief was on leave, the group members were received by his deputy Azer Seyidov, who gave detailed answers to the questions that worried them. During the conversation it became known that the main reason for Rufat Safarov’s punishment was an argument that was started by a prison employee’.

Specifically, the prison employee behaved with deliberate rudeness and used humiliating words towards Safarov, causing a strong objection. Instead of punishing its employee for gross violation of internal discipline rules and humiliation of an inmate, the prison management punished Rufat. Before this, Rufat Safarov had also suffered from arbitrary harassment, when authorised officials of the prison refused to accept a parcel and winter clothes brought for him. Given Safarov’s health problems, his mother asked them to at least give him the winter clothes. However, the prison management once again acted inhumanely and rejected the request, and took another step that would adversely affect Safarov’s health and kept him without warm clothes in the harsh cold.

We, members of the lawyers’ group, declare it with full responsibility that Rufat Safarov’s harassment since his first day in prison and his systematic and arbitrary punishment within a very short span of time are part of a preconceived plan. His placement in the same cell as an inmate who has epilepsy and mental illness right after his arrival in the prison has caused psychological distress to Safarov, who has experienced serious health and neurological problems as a result. The fact that an inmate suffering from a severe form of epilepsy is held in the same cell, as healthy inmates instead of being sent to a treatment facility should, in fact, also be considered psychological torture and is a means of repression against the prisoner. The primary purpose of such unacceptable stresses is to break the will of Rufat Safarov, who resigned from the prosecutor’s offices in protest against illegal actions of the regime, mass human rights abuses and illegalities taking place in the prosecutor’s office, and to use all means to make him abandon his convictions. We all know that the staff of prisons frivolous harass inmates in all prisons, including Prison #9, and repeated violation of their rights have become commonplace.

Large amounts of public funds allocated for prisoners have been misappropriated for many years, they deprive the inmates of proper nutrition, and their meetings with their relatives take place as a bribe in exchange for money; in short, everything is measured by money in prisons. It seems that the heads of the Penitentiary Service, the Ministry of Justice and the Prosecutor’s Office turn a blind eye to the existing illegalities for their personal interests, so the state budget is robbed and favourable conditions are created for violations of inmates’ rights governed by international law. We, members of the lawyers’ group, strongly condemn the utterly baseless and outrageous campaign of harassment against Rufat Safarov, who has been arrested for quitting his job with the prosecution office in protest of corruption – an unprecedented event in the history of the Azerbaijan Republic. We also demand that the authorities that oversee the prison put a stop to the pressures against him. We further call on ambassadors of foreign countries, heads of international organisations, particularly the UN and the Council of Europe’s representations in Azerbaijan to influence the incumbent government. To call out a government which has turned the country into a ‘country of political prisoners’, to fulfil its obligations related to fundamental human rights and freedoms in good faith.”

Background: Lankaran Grave Crimes Court sentenced Rufat Safarov, former investigator of Zardab Regional Prosecutor’s Office, to 9 years in prison on 8 September 2016 on charges of bribery (Article 311 of the Criminal Code).

Rufat Safarov, the son of former head of the press service of the Ministry of Defence, resigned from the post as an investigator of Zardab Regional Prosecutor’s Office by writing an application to Prosecutor General Zakir Garalov in December 2015. He stressed that he did so in protest of the rampant injustice in the country and unjustified attacks against his father.

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