Tyranny stands on oppression, writes Leyla Yunus from prison

 Human rights defender Leyla Yunus writes from prison:  


“I was not allowed to speak in court, but I want my voice to be heard. Finally, I saw Arif. For almost a year, we haven’t seen each other and I have not heard his voice. He celebrated his 60th birthday in a cell. I will also celebrate my 60th birthday in a cell.


We were separated from each other on our 37th wedding anniversary, and I no longer believe that we will be able to be together again on this earth, together with our daughter, as a whole family.

Both of us are historians, and we understand well that tyranny stands on oppression. Stepnak-Kravchinski wrote: “This is worse than plague (disease). Plague kills indiscriminately, when despotism chooses its victims from the cream of the nation.”


Tofig Yagublu, Anar, Ilgar, Intigam, Hilal, Seymur Hazi, Khadija, Tale Bagirzade, Movsum Samedov, Yadigar Sadikhov, Rasul Jafarov, Rashadat, and other young men from NIDA. More than hundred of the brightest and purest…


In the 80’s, Arif and I worked on the illegally published samizdat newspaper “Ekspress Xronika”. During that time, our colleague Anatoli Marchenko died in the Chistopolski prison, in 1986. It was a blow for me. I knew about Stalin’s concentration camps, since my grandfather’s three brothers met the sane fate. But in 1986…


Then I understood that this terror continues in the USSR, and that you have to be ready for it – but I could not have imagined that an independent Azerbaijan would follow the same path.


As a human rights defender with almost thirty years of experience I am well aware of the torture in Azerbaijani prisons. Nonetheless, it was hard when I was attacked during the first months of my detention, when on September 23rd 2014, Major Yaqubov, a strong young man, physically assaulted me. As a result of this beating, I have lost normal vision in my left eye.


On December 11, 2014, I was dragged by my feet into solitary confinement, without any explanation… I heard from Arif, that he was also attacked during his first days of arrest…


Arif has serious hypertension. This puts him at serious risk of stroke, paralysis, hemorrhage, and unpredictable fluctuations in blood pressure. Now he has a tumour on the back of his head. He has been in solitary confinement for a year now, and suffers constant headaches. Regarding my condition – my diabetes and liver problems are well known. The Council of Europe sent me very expensive medicines, but we all understand that in prison conditions this medicine won’t be able to help me…


I don’t have any illusions regarding the judiciary, or the so-called investigation. Our physical destruction has been planned. Why? So that our suffering, our death becomes a lesson for everyone. If the authorities can destroy a well-known family, then the rest is easy to destroy. Rear can find its place in the hearts of citizens. Fear and despair.


Investigators and judges are given instructions from above on which articles to use in falsifying a criminal case or fabricating a crime, and instructions on the duration of the sentence. In our indictment, investigators got so carried away with their lies that even the well-known truth of the illegal demolition of our house at Shamsi Badalbeyli 38 was written up as if it had been a peaceful move from one apartment to another – despite the evidence contained in the decisions of the Administrative-Economic Court, the Court of Appeal and indeed the Supreme Court. It is well known that this was illegal demolition, destroying all the belongings inside (archives, computers) on August 11 2011. 


This example vividly demonstrates the falsification of the whole investigation. Neither investigators nor prosecutors are afraid that their lies will be refuted…


Arif has been accused of transferring money from one of his accounts to another. I have monitored so trials of political prisoners, and I have given to so many judges well-deserved “striped mantles” – and of course I will not participate in this trial. But I will by Arif and hold his hand. Both of us know that this is our last meeting. When everything ends, I won’t be near him… But both of us are historians and we know: “The traveler will tell the Lacedaemonians, that we remained true to the law”. And as my Polish teachers taught me: “For your and our Freedom!”


Background: Leyla and Arif Yunus were arrested in late July and early August 2014. Leyla Yunus has been charged under articles 178.3.2 (large scale fraud), 192.2.2 (illegal entrepreneurship), 213.2.2 (tax evasion), 274 (treason), 320.1 and 320.2 (falsification of documents). Arif Yunus has been charged under articles 178.3.2 (large scale fraud) and 274 (treason). The prosecutor recently decided to investigate the treason charge under separate proceedings. Amnesty International has recognized Leyla and Arif Yunus as prisoners of conscience. 


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