Azerbaijan activist arrested on ‘spurious’ charges, rights watchdog says



Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for the release of the prominent Azerbaijani opposition leader and scholar Gubad Ibadoghlu (right). The Narimanov district court sent Ibadoghlu to pretrial detention for four months on July 24 on charges of production, acquisition, or sale of counterfeit money by an organized group, it added.

Azerbaijani authorities placed an opposition leader into pre-trial detention on Monday for counterfeiting and for being allied with the exiled Turkish cleric Fetullah Gullen, whom Ankara has blamed for plotting the 2016 coup, OCCRP’s Fatima Karimova reports. However, Ibadoghlu believes that the regime in Baku is trying to remove him from the local political scene.

“I have been detained on the orders of [Azerbaijani president] Ilham Aliyev,” Ibadoghlu told a crowd of reporters as he was placed in the back of a police car.

“Ibadoghlu’s detention falls squarely in a longstanding pattern of pursuing dubious charges against government critics in Azerbaijan,” said Giorgi Gogia​, associate Europe and Central Asia director. “Such spurious charges appear to serve only one goal — to silence opposition and critical voices in the country. He should be freed at once.”

Ibadoghlu’s small Democracy and Welfare Party is not represented in the parliament of Azerbaijan, a tightly controlled country in the southern Caucasus that clamps down hard on dissent, Reuters adds. The United States said in March it was troubled by a law on political parties signed by President Ilham Aliyev and urged Azerbaijan to “respect fundamental freedoms, including of association.”

Ibadoghlu, a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)​, has served as chairman of the economic policy commission of the National Council of Democratic Forces in Azerbaijan.

As a steering committee member and Azerbaijan country coordinator of the EU Eastern Partnership Program’s Civil Society Forum, he focuses on issues related to democracy, elections, and human rights, and helps to facilitate greater collaboration among the 51 participating NGOs in Azerbaijan. He has also served as a coordinator of “For Improving Transparency in Extractive Industries,” a 112-member Baku-based NGO coalition, and has been selected as a civil society representative to the board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative for 2013–2015, the NED adds.

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