On May 13, a search was conducted in the office of the Economic Research Center (ERC) by the Serious Crimes Investigation Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office, reported ERC Chairman Gubad Ibadoglu, who is currently in the US.
According to him, during the three-hour search, all the computers and accounting documents of the ERC, the Coalition of Public Unions for Increasing Transparency in Extractive Industries and the National Budget Group were seized.
“I believe that the investigation of the criminal case opened against NGOs last April has not been completed, although a full year has passed since, and a new phase of the crackdown is commencing,” said Ibadoglu.
I believe this is related to my activity in the International Board of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), because at the recent meeting of the EITI International Board, Azerbaijan’s status was downgraded from full membership to candidate member. Tomorrow, on May 14, ERC will present its report on the implementation of the Open Government Partnership Action Plan.
According to Ibadoglu, the decision to conduct the search was made by Nasimi District Court two days after the EITI International Board downgraded Azerbaijan’s status.
He said that he is planning to appeal against the search conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office.
Background: On 22 April 2014, the Serious Crimes Investigation Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office launched a criminal case (#142006023) against a number of foreign and local NGOs under Articles 308.1 (power abuse) and 313 (service forgery) of the Penal Code of Azerbaijan Republic based on “legal violations found in the activities of a number of NGOs of Azerbaijan Republic, and branches or representative offices of foreign NGOs.” The case was opened based on the motion of the Chief of the Serious Crimes Investigation Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Azerbaijan Republic, Eldar Ahmadov. As of July 1 2014, it has been officially confirmed that the following foreign NGOs and foundations have been targeted in the criminal case: inter alia, International Media Support (Denmark), National Endowment for Democracy (United States), National Democratic Institute (United States) and Oxfam (United Kingdom). In connection with this criminal case, as of the beginning of June 2014, organizational bank accounts of more than 20 local NGOs and the personal ones of their directors have been frozen. This has led to the de facto closure of those NGOs. Several NGO directors have already been summoned to the Prosecutor’s Office for interrogation.