Sabunchu protest (narrative)

Sabunchu protest convictions

Following the arrest of Elchin Gasimov, deputy head of the Muslim Unity Movement (MUM) on 5 November, a group of people gathered in front of the Sabunchu District Police Office to learn the reason of his arrest and call for his release were detained. These people were sentenced by Sabunchu District Court to the highest allowable imprisonment under the charges brought against them. They appealed against the judgment.

The persons arrested on the said date were charged with hooliganism and resisting police. However, these charges were later dropped and they received administrative detention under the charge of resisting police. The people released on November 20 and thereafter were again detained for Nardaran incidents and sentenced to administrative detention again. While in administrative detention, they faced charges under which they were sentenced.

One of these detainees Sahil Rzayev, who had been earlier arrested in the hijab protest and sentenced to imprisonment, filed an appeal saying that both him and his believer friends were subjected to heavy torture and that they did not commit any crime and peacefully protested against Elchin Gasimov’s arrest. The appeal was publicized in the press.[1]

The verdict issued on these persons shows that their imprisonment is only based on the testimonies of police officers. The video records taken from security cameras installed before the police office, which were submitted to the court, do not show any resistance of these persons against the police officers or their being involved in confrontation. The records show a group of people standing before the police office, a large number of police officers in the area, a conversation going on between believers and some police officers that later turned to a conflict as a result of use of force by police officers.

On 3 August 2016, the Sabunchu district court (judge Suleyman Agayev) sentenced five men to terms of imprisonment of approximately 6 years each. E.Bunyadov to 6 years 1 month 15 days, L.Ahmadov to 5 yrs 11 month 20 days, A. Aliyev to 5 yrs 11 months, S. Rzayev to 6 yrs 5 months 15 days and N. Valiyev to 5 yrs 11 months 10 days in prison. The decision was upheld by Baku Appeal Court (chairing judge Vugar Mammadov) on 08 May 2017 and The Supreme Court (chairing judge Gulzar Rzayeva) on 28 November 2017.