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Man dies in suspicious circumstances in police custody in Mingechevir; police respond forcefully to resulting protest
Bahruz Hajiyev, a resident of the city of Mingechevir, who was summoned to Mingechevir City Police Department at about 18.00 on 20 August, ended up in a morgue shortly afterwards. His family learned the news through a friend, says Bahruz’s father, Dilsuz Hajiyev. According to the father, he was told at the police department that his son had been summoned for interrogation, but he broke free from the police officers, ran upstairs, and threw himself from the third floor of the building.
“There were bruises on my son’s body and his back. My son could never kill himself. The police did not tell us why they had summoned my son. They took my son to the farthest morgue of the city, without informing us about his suicide. We only found out when he was already at the morgue and we could retrieve his body with great difficulty”, Dilsuz Hajiyev said.
The statement issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Prosecutor’s Office regarding the incident reads: “A criminal case has been launched and is being investigated in connection with the death by throwing himself out the window of citizen Bahruz Hajiyev, who had been brought to the Mingechevir City Police Department as a person suspected of drug abuse and trafficking, on 20 August. It has been found that Senior Police Lieutenant Shahlar Shahlarzadeh, a chief operating officer of the criminal investigation section of that department, failed to ensure the safety of Bahruz Hajiyev in violation of the requirements of the service regulations about the detention and safety of suspects, and acted inattentively, which had serious consequences. In accordance with the results of the internal investigation, Senior Police Lieutenant Shahlar Shahlarzadeh has been dismissed from service at internal affairs bodies by order of the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan. At the same time, a ‘severe reprimand’ has been made to Police Colonel Alasgar Badalov, the chief of the Mingechevir City Police Department, for weak supervision of the activities of subordinates and failure to organise proper detention of persons suspected of a committing a crime”.
It is further noted that the investigation of the incident takes place under the supervision of the Azerbaijani President, who receives regular updates about its progress.
Agil Azizov, a friend of Bahruz Hajiyev who allegedly died by committing suicide at the Mingechevir Police Department on 20 August, says that on the day of the incident, he and Bahruz Hajiyev were going to play billiards with some other friends.
“A police officer by the name of Samir drove past us in his car, but then turned back and stopped his car near us. Bahruz said ‘He is my classmate, let me greet him and come back’. But as soon as they met, Samir twisted Bahruz’s arm. Then a ‘015’ [brand of car] stopped next to them. They pushed Bahruz into the car and took off. Samir then told them to detain me as well and they put me into the car. We asked why they had detained us, and they said they would tell us at the [police] department. We were on the first floor of the department building when they bent my head so that I could not see where they took Bahruz. We were taken there in the same car. Nothing happened on the way. They did not let us to talk to each other. At the department they searched my clothes [for drugs], but they were clean. Bahruz also did not have anything except a pack of cigarettes, a lighter and 3-4 AZN of money. After a while, there was a tumult, they told me that someone had thrown himself from the third floor. I asked the police officer who that person was. He said it was not the one who had come with me. But then they said it was Bahruz. We took a blood test there, which did not reveal anything. I even signed the test results 15 minutes before it happened”, said Azizov.
On 22 August, a protest was held in Mingechevir over Hajiyev’s death. Police used excessive force to disperse the protest. Additional forces were deployed in Mingechevir. Twenty one protesters were detained, 11 of whom were fined by the court and released on 22 August, while the cases of the remaining 10 were referred to the prosecutor’s office for investigation.
In connection with Hajiyev’s death, Senior Police Lieutenant Shahlar Shahlarzadeh, a chief operating officer of the criminal investigation section of the Mingechevir City Police Department, was charged under Articles 125 (driving to suicide) and 308.2 (abuse of officials powers, entailing heavy consequences) of the Criminal Code. The chief of Mingechevir Police Department, Alasgar Badalov in turn received a “severe reprimand”.