Ismayilli protests (January 2013)

Social protests list

On the evening of 23 January 2013, Emil Shamdinov, the administrator of the Chirag Hotel located in the Ismayilli region, and his acquaintance Elmaddin Mammadov, crashed into the car of a local taxi driver and then beat the taxi driver. Both men were drunk at the time of the incident.

The hotel was owned by Vugar Alakbarov, son of former Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Fuzuli Alakbarov (this fact was proven by Ilgar Mammadov, who was arrested for the same incident, with official records). During the incident, both men insulted Ismayilli residents who gathered at the scene. This led to a protest by the residents. The angered residents started to throw stones at the Chirag Hotel and set it on fire. The protesters also demanded the resignation of the Head of the regional administration Nizami Alakbarov, brother of former minister Fuzuli Alakbarov, and continued the protest in front of his house as well. The protesters burnt the house and automobiles in its yard. To respond to the protests, a number of police officers and internal troops were brought to the region from Baku and neighbouring regions and arrests began.

A criminal case was opened into the incident. On 23 January, eight Ismayilli residents, along with Emil Shamdinov and Elmaddin Mammadov, were remanded in custody, and 23 persons received jail terms of varying length for administrative offences. On 24 January, protests continued with a demand for the resignation of the executive head and release of the arrested protesters. The police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protests.

In the framework of the criminal case, a total of 18 persons were arrested for the incident. Sixteen of them are residents of the Ismayilli region. The other two prisoners included Ilgar Mammadov, Chairman of the ReAL movement, and journalist Tofig Yagublu. Yagublu was released from prison under a pardon decree of March 2016.

The persons who were sentenced to pre-trial detention were initially charged with resisting police and violating public order. However, the latter was replaced with a more serious charge – inciting mass disorders and participating in these disorders.

Trial

On 17 March 2014 the Shaki Serious Crimes Court (Judge Rashid Huseynov) sentenced ten of the arrested persons to sentences of between four and eight years’ loss of liberty. A further eight people released in the courtroom on probation.

Although some of the defendants pleaded partly guilty, others were arrested under false and ordered accusations. In other words, in addition to Ilgar Mammadov and Tofig Yagublu, there were residents of the Ismayilli region who were arrested under clearly political motives. The involvement of these persons in criminal actions was not proven in the trial. Even police officers testifying as witnesses said that they had not seen the faces of those who set the fires or threw stones, and that general protests of a number of residents took place. Although the owners and residents of the hotel were recognized as victims, they said in the trial that they had no claims against the defendants.