February 4th marked the three year anniversary since the arrest of Yeni Musavat newspaper columnist, journalist Tofig Yagublu and the opposition REAL Movement’s chairman Ilgar Mammadov. Yagublu and Mammadov were arrested on February 4, 2013, in the wake of the protests that swept Azerbaijan’s northwestern city Ismayilli on January 23 and resulted in the arson attacks on the “Chirag” Hotel and 4 cars in the city. The protests broke out after a Chirag Hotel employee, Baku resident Emil Shamsaddinov, caused a road accident due to drunk driving, after which he and his passenger, Baku resident Elmaddin Mammadov, assaulted and injured Ismayilli resident Ramil Bakirov, who was nearby, and insulted local residents in front of a crowd that had gathered in the area. More than 15 participants in the protests, as well as Emil Shamsaddinov and Elmaddin Mammadov, were arrested. Ilgar Mammadov and Tofig Yagublu travelled to Ismayilli a day after the protests, on January 24, in their capacity as a political figure and a journalist to obtain firsthand information from locals about what had happened.
Tofig Yagublu and Ilgar Mammadov were initially charged under articles 233 (organization of actions promoting infringement of the public order or active participation in such actions) and 315 (resistance to a representative of authority) of the Criminal Code. Later, the charge under article 233 was dropped and a new charge under article 220.1 (organization of mass disorders accompanied by violence, pillage, arson or destruction of property or participation in such disorders) was brought against them.
On March 17, 2014, Shaki Grave Crimes Court sentenced Ilgar Mammadov to 7 years and Tofig Yagublu to 5 years in jail. The appeal against the court’s verdict was rejected by the Shaki Court of Appeal. On October 13, 2015, the Supreme Court referred their case back to Shaki Court of Appeal for reconsideration.
On May 22, 2014, the European Court of Human Rights recognized the violation of Ilgar Mammadov’s rights in regards to article 5.1 and 5.4 (right to liberty), 6.2 (presumption of innocence) and 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In October 2015, the European Human Rights Court recognized violation of Tofig Yagublu’s right to liberty. Referring to article 5.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Court ruled that Tofig Yagublu should be immediately released and receive compensated in an amount of EUR 24,000.
Ilgar Mammadov and Tofig Yagublu are being held in Prison #2 and Prison #13 respectively. Ilgar Mammadov has been repeatedly pressured, beaten up and denied contact with his family in an attempt to push him to apply for a pardon. Tofig Yagublu is suffering from ongoing health problems.