Chairman of REAL (Republican Alternative)
= Date of arrest – 4 February 2013
= Charges (2000 Criminal Code) –
220.1 — organization of or participation in mass disorders accompanied by violence, breaking, arson, or destruction of property;
315.2 – Use of force, dangerous to life or health, against a representative of authority, in the performance of his professional duties
= Penal facility – Prison No.2
= Case summary – Ilgar Mammadov has been engaged in politics since the restoration of Azerbaijan’s independence. About ten years ago, he launched the first-ever political blog in Azerbaijan. Mammadov is the Director of the Baku School of Political Studies of the Council of Europe, as well as an advisory board member of the German Marshall Fund and Revenue Watch22.
Mammadov is the Chairman of the Republican Alternative (REAL) movement, which was established in 2009 and has become known as a new generation political force in recent years. The movement’s main objectives are to transition to a parliamentary republic and restore republican traditions in Azerbaijan; to build an effective government; and to guarantee rights and freedoms. Since its establishment, besides criticizing current government policies and those implementing these policies, including President Aliyev, REAL has also proposed alternative programs.
Following the referendum of March 2009 – which removed the provision limiting a president to serve only two terms in office – during a live program on ANS TV, Mammadov accused President Aliyev of following the path of Iranian Shah Reza Pahlavi by removing presidential term limits. Mammadov, who ran in the 2010 parliamentary elections, used his airtime to criticize the ruling authorities for pursuing useless policies. On 1 March 2012, Mammadov visited the city of Guba during mass protests taking place against the local executive head of the region to learn the situation on site. He criticized the authorities for these protests.
In November 2012, Mammadov criticized parliament’s ineffective operation, saying that it was comprised of MPs who had gained their seats through rigged elections. He described the parliament as a zoo. As a result, MP Adil Aliyev, who is connected to the ruling authorities, voiced a threat, saying in an interview that those who spoke like this needed to be beheaded. Ruling party MP Hadi Rajabli, the head of Parliament’s Committee on Social Policy, stated that an appeal for Mammadov’s arrest was ready to be submitted to the court, and that MPs continued to sign the appeal. No appeal was ever submitted. On 19 January 2013, workers at the Bina Trade Centre in Baku held a protest with social requirements, which resulted in a confrontation with the police. Mammadov visited the scene of the protest, met with protesters, and learned their demands. Both on his blog and in interviews with the media, Mammadov voiced support for the protesters, stating that their demands were justified. He openly blamed the authorities for not being interested in preventing corruption.
On 23 January 2013, protests were held in the Ismayilli region, demanding the resignation of the local executive head, which also resulted in clashes. On 24 January, a day after the protest, Mammadov visited the Ismayilli region. After talking with journalists and some of the residents in the centre of the region, he returned to Baku. On his way to Baku, Mammadov gave an interview to RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani service, stating that the protesters’ demands were reasonable. On his blog, he criticized the local executive bodies for exhausting the people’s patience. In addition, Mammadov obtained the identities of those who caused the confrontations. He identified them as relatives and close friends of then- Minister of Labour and Social Protection, Fuzuli Alakbarov. Mammadov obtained and publicized official documents indicating that the hotel run by people who caused the clashes was owned by the Minister’s son. Though at the time, the local executive head and other officials had stated that the hotel did not belong to any official or their relatives.
Mammadov was REAL’s candidate at the presidential elections of 2013. A relevant decision had been made inside the organization before his arrest. Despite his arrest, Mammadov proceeded with his candidacy for presidency. Despite serious obstacles, his candidacy was initially registered upon submission of over 40,000 signatures to the Central Election Commission (CEC) who then refused registration claiming, without any grounds, that the signatures were false.
Mammadov was arrested following his visit to Ismayilli. Most television stations, as of 26 January, quoted the statement released by the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In the statement, the claim was made that Mammadov, along with journalist and Deputy Head of the Musavat Party, Tofig Yagublu, incited the incidents in Ismayilli. In doing so, these stations violated right to presumption of innocence and described Mammadov as a criminal.
On 29 January, Mammadov was summoned to the Grave Crimes Investigation Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office where he was questioned over the Ismayilli visit, and then released. On 4 February, he was again called to the department, and sentenced by the Nasimi District Court to pre-trial detention.
Mammadov had visited Ismayilli a day after the protest, not the day when the protest began. He stayed in the centre of Ismayilli city only for about 40 to 50 minutes with several journalists and Natig Jafarli, REAL Executive Secretary, who was travelling with him. Jafarli and the journalists confirmed this during the trial. In addition, a video showed Mammadov in the city centre, not calling for confrontation, but just talking to journalists. The video showed no mass action or violence.
Excerpts from mobile phone conversations reveals that Mammadov had already left the region during the period when he was allegedly taking part in illegal activities.
The Ismayilli residents blamed for the incidents said they did not know Mammadov. Two residents, Israfil Verdiyev and Rovshan Novruzov, who were involved in the cases as witnesses, claimed that they saw Mammadov calling on youth to resist police. But when questioned by lawyers, the witnesses gave conflicting testimonies. The venue where the witnesses claimed Mammadov was staying was different from the place claimed by the investigation. A witness with the surname Mehdiyev said that he was at the scene by chance and had not witnessed anything during the Ismayilli protest. But the case materials showed that Mehdiyev had already testified against those arrested on 23 January.
The alleged victims stressed in their testimonies that they had no financial or non-financial demand against the defendants.
= Sentence — On 17 March 2014, Shaki Court of Grave Crimes sentenced Mammadov to 7 years’ loss of liberty. Shaki Court of Appeal upheld the sentence on 24 September 2014.
The Supreme Court annulled the decision of the appellate court on 13 October 2015 and sent the case back to the appellate court for reconsideration. However, on 29 April 2016, Shaki Court of Appeal refused to free Mammadov and upheld the 7-year-long imprisonment sentence again. The Supreme Court upheld the decision at its hearing on 18 November 2016.
Amnesty International described Mammadov’s arrest as a “politically motivated prosecution,” and recognized him as a prisoner of conscience. The PACE co-rapporteurs for Azerbaijan expressed concern over Mammadov’s arrest and visited him in detention while they were in Baku. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights underscored the necessity of Mammadov’s release in a report. The European Parliament passed two resolutions calling for Mammadov’s immediate and unconditional release.
On 22 May 2014, the European Court of Human Rights announced its judgment on the application sent in connection with pre-trial detention of Mammadov, which found violation of Articles 5.1 and 5.4 (right to freedom), 6.2 (presumption of innocence) and 18 (limitations on use of restrictions on rights) taken in conjunction with Article 5 of the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The pre-trial detention of Mammadov was deemed ungrounded. In paragraph 143 of the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment, it was concluded that Ilgar Mammadov was punished for criticizing the Government.
Following the ECtHR judgment, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe passed several decisions and interim resolutions, the last one issued on 22 March 2017. The decision calls for release of Mammadov from prison and reminds that measures could be taken in line with Article 46 of the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and Article 3 of the Statute of Council of Europe.