Azerbaijani authorities are using spurious drug charges to pursue long prison sentences against two youth activists. The charges apparently are in retaliation for painting graffiti on a monument. The authorities should immediately free them and investigate credible allegations that they were ill-treated in police custody, Human Rights Watch said today:
Giyas Ibrahimov, 22, and Bayram Mammadov, 21, were detained on May 10, 2016. On May 12, the Khatai district court ordered them held in pretrial detention for four months. The men were denied access to their lawyer until shortly before the May 12 hearing. During the hearing, the men described abuse and ill-treatment in police custody and the court agreed to investigate the allegations. If convicted they face up to 12 years in prison and confiscation of property.
For the past three years, the Azerbaijani government has carried out a pervasive crackdown on dissent, jailing dozens of political activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and other government critics.
“Azerbaijan has a sad history of fabricating drug charges against youth activists to intimidate them and deter others from following suit,” said Giorgi Gogia, South Caucasus director at Human Rights Watch. “Ibrahimov and Mammadov are the latest blatant examples of this government tactic to suppress dissent.”