Date of arrest – 28 June 2014
Charges (2000 Criminal Code) –
Article 312.2 – Bribery
(Presentation of a bribe to an official for the commitment of an intentional illegal act (inaction) by him/her, or repeated presentation).
Penal facility – Prison No. 10
Case summary – Aliabbas Rustamov is the head of the Yasavul Law Firm and a prominent human rights defender. Prior to his arrest, Rustamov was one of those who openly criticized the government. On his Facebook profile page, he continuously expressed strong criticism regarding the country’s problems and shared critical posts. During the 2013 presidential elections, Rustamov supported the opposition nominee Jamil Hasanli of the National Council and took part at his rallies. Even after the election, he attended the events, public hearings, and marathons held by National Council.
Prior to his arrest, Rustamov applied to become a counsel at the court proceeding on tax evasion charges of prisoner of conscience Anar Mammadov (head of Election Monitoring and Democracy Training Centre). Though Rustamov is considered as one of the best experts in this sphere, difficulties created in the administrative process prevented him from participating in Anar Mammadov’s defence. Specifically, Mammadov’s signature on his approval of Mammadli as his representative needed to be notarized. However, the prison did not afford him such ability.
On 17 March 2014, Rustamov addressed an appeal with a tough language to the President Ilham Aliyev, which drew broad public attention. The appeal was first published as an open letter in newspaper Azadliq, and later went viral via other media outlets and social media.
Rustamov began his appeal to the president with the following expression: “Comprehensive information about the robbery affairs of high-ranking officials is all around you”. He then listed facts concerning the theft of budget funds in the amount of one hundred million manats. After the letter, Rustamov expected be arrested, and on 28 June 2014 he was indeed arrested. On the day of his arrest Rustamov was only able to talk to a reporter from the newspaper Azadliq. “On the day of his arrest, Aliabbas Rustamov called me saying that he is being accused of taking bribes. He considers his arrest to be ordered in connection with his letter to the president’ – Vidadi Mammadov, Azadliq reporter told BBC Azerbaijan.
The local press called the formal charges filed against Aliabbas Rustamov “absurd,” questioning “how can a human rights defender take bribe from his client and how can it be claimed”. Rustamov’s arrest is related to his critical position, defence of opposition activists and his open letter to the head of state.
Sentence – On 6 November 2015, Baku Grave Crimes Court (judge Rahib Salmanov) sentenced Aliabbas Rustamov to seven years’ loss of liberty. Baku Court of Appeal upheld the sentence on 18 August 2016.
On 7 February 2017, the Supreme Court (Presiding judge Imran Hajigaibov) reduced Rustamov’s sentence to six years of imprisonment.