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Azerbaijan

Yearbook 2015

Azerbaijan. The country received criticism from the outside world for deteriorating conditions for human rights. Amnesty International described how government critics were detained on false charges, beaten, threatened and deprived of emergency medical care and legal aid.

2015 Azerbaijan

In January, an opposition journalist, Seymur Hezi, was sentenced to five years in prison accused of hooliganism. In February, investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova was charged with reporting corruption in the presidential family. Among other things, she was charged with abuse of power and tax evasion. In a charge of defamation, she was fined just over SEK 20,000. In the main trial, Ismayilova was sentenced in September to seven and a half years in prison for financial crime, a judgment which, according to the lawyer, was illegal. Human Rights Watch described the verdict as grotesque.

According to COUNTRYAAH, Ismayilova was awarded the Swedish Publicist Club's Statement of Freedom and Press Freedom during the year for Anna Politkovskaya's memory for her courage and her revelations, among other things about TeliaSonera's economic relations with Azerbaijan's power elite, a bribery business that, according to judges, may be the largest in Swedish history. The European Parliament called on Azerbaijan to release Ismayilova, but the regime responded by stopping a visit from the European Commission in the country.

In March, three regime critics were released in a major amnesty. At the same time, the regime rejected the representative of Human Rights Watch, who wanted to monitor the trial of human rights activist Rasul Jafarov. He was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for, among other things, abuse of power and tax evasion. Human rights lawyer Intiqam Aliyev was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison camps for similar charges, and an opposition leader, Fərəc Kərimli, who published information on the regime's corruption, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for serious drug offenses.

The regime's harshest critic, human rights activist Leyla Yunus, was sentenced in August to eight and a half years in prison accused of financial crime. Her husband Arif Yunus was sentenced to seven years on the same grounds. Both are also charged with treason, a charge that could result in life imprisonment. According to Human Rights Watch, the allegations were false and intended to silence both. The judges were appealed.

A regime-critical journalist, Emin Huseynov, was allowed to leave Azerbaijan during the year after the regime had long negotiations with Switzerland, at whose embassy Huseynov had his refuge for ten months.

In October, two representatives of Amnesty International were arrested and rejected when they arrived in the country.

In November, parliamentary elections were held, which according to the OSCE, were so constrained by restrictions that the organization did not consider it worthwhile to participate with election observers. The main opposition parties also boycotted the election in protest of the lack of democracy. According to the official result, the New Azerbaijan Government Party received 70 of the 125 seats in Parliament. Other mandates went to parties that actively or passively support the regime.

The low oil price caused severe economic hardship for Azerbaijan, which depended on oil and gas for 95% of its exports. This year's budget was calculated at an oil price of $ 90 per barrel, but it ended up around $ 50. In February, the currency was devalued by one third. In May, a large number of entrepreneurs who had debts to a state bank were arrested. They were released after partial payments.

The conflict with Armenia over the Armenian breakaway republic of Nagorno-Karabakh reached its most violent level since the end of the war in 1994. Firing at the border became more common, both sides used artillery and other heavy weapons, and more and more civilians were hit. During the first four months of the year, 31 people were killed.

In December, imprisoned human rights activist Leyla Yunus was released on condition of ill health. Then her husband had also recently been released. Instead, opposition leader Fuad Gahramanly was arrested.

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