Muslim Unity Movement
♦ Date of arrest – 6 October 2017
♦ Charges (2000 Criminal Code) –
234.4.3 — Narcotics
(illegal purchase or storage, without the intent to sell, of drugs or psychotropic substances in a quantity exceeding that necessary for personal consumption, when committed in a large amount)
♦ Penal facility – Baku Pre-trial Detention Facility
♦ Case summary – Ahsan Nuruzade is a member of the unregistered Muslim Unity Movement (MUM). He is religious and political activist. He organized public support during the trial of the leader of the Movement, Taleh Bagirov (Baghirzade), and 17 other activists.
Nuruzade regularly posted items on his Facebook page about falsifications of the investigation carried out by the “Bandotdel”, the Organized Crime Unit of the Interior Ministry, against MUM. In his interviews to media he criticized “Bandotdel” calling the unit “monster and torture cave”. Nuruzade was subject to abductions, arrests, and time in jail prior to this case.
First abduction and arrest
On 24 January 2017, day before Baku Grave Crimes Court announced a verdict to Bagirov and 17 other MUM activists, Nuruzade was abducted by two plainclothes men in his neighbourhood. His phone was immediately seized he was forcedly taken into the black Mercedes and taken to the Organized Crime Unit at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. One hour later he was forced under pressure to sign the protocol claiming that he resisted the police (Article 535.1 of the Code of Administrative Offences). The same day the Narimanov district court sentenced him to 10 days in jail. He was not allowed to contact family or lawyer during this time.
After sentence was passed, Nuruzade was taken not to the jail, but back to Bandotdel and kept there illegally until 30 January 2017. His family and lawyer were not informed of his whereabouts or the verdict of the court, although they officially requested information about him at every possible location: all district police stations, the Narimanov district court, the jail at the Narimanov Police Station, the Organized Crime Unit, the jail (//Administrative Detention Facility), the Baku City Police Department, the emergency phone number (102) at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the national Ombudsman and the International Red Cross.
The Police Departments, Court and Detention Facilities all responded to repeated inquiries with false information that he is not detained or sentenced. On 27 January, the family applied to Nasimi District Police Department to register him as a missing person and start searches. On 28 January lawyer of Nuruzade Yalchin Imanov publicly called on the Minister of Interrnal Affairs to help to find Nuruzade. On 30 January 2017, the lawyer received a phone call from the Organized Crime Unit and was informed that Nuruzade was in their custody and could see his lawyer. However, Imanov, who went to the Unit was not allowed to see his client. He was informed that Nuruzade had been transferred to the jail (Facility for Administrative Detention).
Between 24-30 January, while in the Anti-Organized Crime Unit, Nuruzade had been subject to daily interrogations, during which he was asked questions about Taleh Bagirov, Muslim Unity Movement and its financial sources, the Popular Front Party, links with Western Human Rights Organizations, National Council of Opposition, links with Iran, his relations with media and human rights defenders. None of these interrogations had been documented, no protocol compiled. During detention he was subject to moral and psychological pressure, ill-treatment. He was plainly demanded to stop his social-political activity, stop supporting Taleh Bagirov, seize relations with National Council and not contact journalists and human rights defenders. He was told that all his contacts are betrayers of Azerbaijan’s statehood and he was offered to cooperate with law-enforcement. He was threatened with repeated arrest with more serious crimes and worse treatment next time. Nuruzade did not agree to cooperate.
Second abduction and arrest
Nuruzade was detained again on 19 September 2017, when he, in his home clothes went to the neighbouring market to buy cigarettes. This time he was forced by two plain cloth people to the Jeep and again brought to Anti-Organized Crime Unit. In the Unit two people unofficially interrogated him. Again, he was asked questions about MUM financial sources, activists of MUM, National Council of opposition, Popular Front Party and the preparations to the rally of opposition on 23 September 2017. He was demanded to give information and contacts of his relatives, when refused to give this information he was beaten by officer named Farid. He was threatened that they will use relatives of his wife against him.
On 22 September he was taken from the underground cell of the Unit to the investigator and protocol on his detention was compiled. According to the protocol, Nuruzade was swearing near the Anti-Organized Crime Unit and did not submit to demands of police officers to stay calm, continued to cry out obscenities and subsequently was detained by police officers when he tried to escape. When police completed the protocol on administrative offence Nuruzade refused to sign it, declared that none of this was true, and described his detention. On 22 September he was taken to Narimanov District Court which sentenced him to 10 days of administrative arrest. From the court Nuruzade was again transferred to Bandotdel and threatened that he will be charged with criminal case and face longterm arrest if he doesn’t stop his activism. After this talk he was transferred to the Administrative Detention facility at 21.00 on 22 September – 3 days after detention.
During this time Nuruzade’s family and lawyer were not informed on his whereabouts. The family and lawyer searched for Nuruzade inquiring information from Interior Ministry’s hotline, Red Cross, National Preventive Group on Torture (Ombudsman Institution), Anti-Organized Crimes Unit. All government agencies denied his detention up to 22 September nigh. The family was informed about his arrest by state appointed lawyer, after the sentence was announced. Nuruzade was released on 2 October 2017, ten days after the sentence. He was again asked to cooperate with law enforcement and help to destroy Muslim Unity Movement, inform them about processes in opposition National Council.
Anti-Organized Crime Unit used the same official legend in both cases: Nuruzade was swearing in the street, did not conform when was asked by police to restore the order and resisted to authorities. First administrative arrest case is pending in the ECtHR.
Third abduction and criminal prosecution
Nuruzade was detained on 6 October 2017 when he was heading to the trial on Nardaran case in the Baku Serious Crimes Court. Two plain cloth people stopped him near his house, forced him to the black Jeep and he was taken in unknown direction. His family and lawyer inquired in Anti-Organized Unit, Interior Ministry’s hotline, Ombudsman Institution, International Red Cross Baku office, Administrative Detention Facility.
On 10 October lawyer inquired in Baku Pre-Trial Detention facility and was informed that Nuruzade was brought there on 9 October evening. Lawyer was informed that Nuruzade is being charged with the Article 234.4.3 (storage of drugs with sale purpose) and the investigation is conducted by the Anti-Organized Crime Unit.
The Narimanov district court ruled that Nuruzade be remanded in custody for four months. The Appeal Court upheld the decision.
His trial began on 18 January 2018.