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February 26, 2016
A small but growing number of Azerbaijani diplomats and embassy staff are reported to have sought refuge in Europe and Australia as a result of the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in their homeland.
An Azerbaijan’s Embassy employee based in Switzerland says he has defected and will seek political asylum in Switzerland. Emin Bakhshiyev, who since October 2013 has worked as a driver at the Azerbaijan’s Embassy in Bern, says he could not stand the pressure put on him and his family by the government of Azerbaijan.
Prior his job at Azerbaijani Embassy in Bern, Bakhshiyev worked as a personal photographer of Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov.
In the recent period, eight Azerbaijan’s diplomats and embassy staff have sought asylum in Europe and Australia amidst their government’s repression of dissent.
In June 2015, Arif Mammadov, the chief of mission of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s delegation to the European Union. was discharged after he jad posted on his personal Facebook profile, a status, critical of the official authorities in Azerbaijan. : Subsequently, a criminal case was launched against him on charges of embezzlement, abuse of office, and forgery.
In its August 12, 2015 statement, the Prosecutor-General’s Office said that Mammadov misused budgetary funds and forged documents to steal tens of thousands of euros in state money in 2007-2012.
To escape from this prosecution, Arif Mammadov had to seek asylum in Belgium.
Shortly after Mammadov’s sacking Azerbaijan’s diplomat to the Netherlands, Nahid Jafarov was dismissed from his service. He opted to ask for political asylum in Netherlands According to media reports, Jafarov was dismissed due to his friendship with Arif Mammadov.
In September 2015, Mammadov wrote on his Facebook page:
“We are seeking political asylum not because we want to stay in Europe but because it is an important step in providing protection for our families. Our goal is to continue our work for the sake of democracy in Azerbaijan from here”, he stated.
In addition to Jafarov, several other Azerbaijan Foreign Ministry staff opted to ask for political asylum. These diplomats and embassy staff include: Farah Gozalova, Advisor to the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Belgium; Samir Ismayilov, Chief of Staff of the Embassy of Azerbaijan in France; Farid Subhanverdiyev, an employee of Azerbaijan’s Embassy in Australia;, and Turan Aliyeva, Deputy Consul in France and a staff of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation’s Representative Office in France.; Anar Hasanov, a staff of Azerbaijani Embassy in Australia.
According to reports, the former diplomats Arif Mammadov, Farah Gozalova and Nahid Jafarov have been granted asylum, while the others have their asylum applications pending.