The police harshly stopped a peaceful rally on the Fountain Square in the center of Baku demanding the release of the former head of the Executive Power of the Gadabay region Saleh Rustamov, who has been on hunger strike for 26 days.
Even before the start of the action, which was scheduled for 15.00, its organizers, youth activists Ilkin Rustamzade and Mete Türksoy, were detained.
At about 15.00, the police began to detain all those who chanted the slogans “Freedom for Saleh!”, “Do not kill Saleh, release!”
The women who took part in the action were also detained. One elderly woman was captured by the police while she was giving interviews to reporters and dragged into a paddy wagon. About 20-25 people were detained. Among the detained are a member of the National Council of Democratic Forces Tofig Yagublu, his daughter Nigar Hazi, an activist of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA) Dilara Mirieva, and others.
Before the action, its organizers circulated its resolution in advance. It contains demands for “the release of Saleh Rustamli, who has been on hunger strike for 26 days.”
“We believe that Saleh’s arrest (a form of respectful treatment of a man) was carried out on the basis of a political order and political bias. Under no circumstances should the government use the power of power structures against its opponents in an unconstitutional manner,” the resolution says.
Further, it is indicated that Rustamov “is already in a critical condition.” “If they do not release them today, it may be too late tomorrow,” the message goes on to say.
“The death of a person arrested for political reasons as a result of a hunger strike will be a heavy burden on the government. We, being honest citizens, demand the immediate release of Saleh Rustamli,” the action concluded.
Saleh Rustamov, a supporter of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, a veteran of the first Karabakh war, was arrested in May 2018 and sentenced to 7 years 3 months in prison in the so-called case of “illegal financing of the Popular Front Party”. Human rights activists recognized him as a political prisoner. Subsequently, the Supreme Court reduced the sentence by 2 months. Since November 6, he has been on an indefinite hunger strike demanding his release.