NIDA youth movement
Date of arrest – 10 May 2016
Charges (articles of the Criminal Code) –
234.4.1 and 234.4.3 – Narcotics
Illegal purchase or storage with intent to sell, manufacturing, processing, transportation, transfer or selling of narcotics or psychotropic substances, when committed, in a large amount, by a group on a prior arrangement.
Penal facility – Prison No. 13
Case summary – In the early hours of 10 May 2016, photos were spread on social networking sites and some news portals portraying graffiti painted on a statue of former President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev in the centre of Baku. It could clearly be seen on the photos that words “Qul bayraminiz mubardk” (“Happy Slave Day!”) and “Fuck the system” were written on the plinth of the statue with symbols associated with anarchists. To note, Flower Day is held on 10 May, every year, to commemorate Heydar Aliyev’s birthday in Azerbaijan. It is of no doubt that those expressions were written on the statue in a protest to the said holiday.
The next day, 11 May, reports were spread on social networking sites and news portals saying that two youth activists had gone missing. Official information on the issue was only released on 12 May reporting that both youths — Giyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov (both are NIDA Movement members) were arrested on 10 May charged with drug possession, claiming that 1 kg of heroin was found and taken from each of them. However, the public was not convinced that these young men from low- income families could have such a large amount of drugs. The discussions on this topic in public and on local media, the speeches of lawyers and statements of local and international organizations hold that the charge is false, and the criminal prosecution is politically motivated.
During the hearing, it was clearly seen that the two had been subjected to beating and violence. In addition, on 12 May, lawyer Elchin Sadigov witnessed that Giyas Ibrahimov, who was held in temporary detention facility of Narimanov Police Department, was forced to sweep the premises of the police station. Mr Sadigov filed a petition requesting video records of the surveillance cameras of police department with a view to document what he had witnessed. The youths appealed to local and international community with regard to the torture they had been subject to.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which was in Baku at the time, visited the two men. The statement of the Group on conclusions of the visit says that what they observed seemed to corroborate the prisoners’ accounts (see statements by Mammadov and Ibrahimov published by Meydan TV). Moreover, the youths were not allowed to meet with their family or a lawyer of their choice. This is a serious legal offence. Their detention was in fact hidden for two days. On 11 May, the police searched the apartments of both youths without letting the family members in. Shortly thereafter, they left the apartment claiming that they had found drugs. (See news items by Freedom House and Human Rights Watch and appeal by Amnesty International.)
During the court session where both youths were sentenced to pre-trial detention, they admitted that they had painted graffiti on the statue. They added that the police wanted them to apologize to the monument, on a camera of state television, promising to free them in return.
Giyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov were final year students of Baku Slavic University. At the time of their arrest, there were only 2 exam sessions pending before their graduation from the university. Their lawyer appealed to both Penitentiary Service and Baku Slavic University requesting to allow them to take their final exams, however, they were not allowed. In fact, they were prevented from graduating from the university. Both were participants and winners of intellectual games aired on Azerbaijani TV stations.
Upon the detention of the youth, Freedom House and Human Rights Watch stated that the charges were not convincing and that the arrest was a blow to freedom of expression. Amnesty International recognized both youths as prisoners of conscience (Revolving Doors, 2016, pp. 6-7). Appeals have been sent to the European Court of Human Rights against the imprisonment sentence of both youths.
On 14 September, Sabail District Court dismissed the petition filed by the youths for opening of a criminal case on their having been subjected to torture and inhumane treatment at the time of arrest.
Sentence — Giyas Ibrahimov’s trial was held at the same court. Both activists declared in the trial that they are solely arrested for angering “big brother” by writing political slogans on the statue of his father, thus protesting cult of personality. While prosecutor requested 9 years of deprivation of liberty for Ibrahimov, the judge Anvar Seyidov sentenced the activist to 10 years of prison — longer term, than requested by prosecutor. Issuing harsher sentence than the one requested by prosecutor is not practiced in Azerbaijani courts. Appeal Court (chairing judge Vugar Mammadov) upheld the decision on 17 July 2017.
Appeal Court filed a complaint about Giyas Ibrahimov and his father Hasan Ibrahimov, claiming that they insulted both the jury and the court. Based on their complaint, Yasamal District Court (judge Huseyn Safarov) issued on 18 December 2017 additional sentence about Ibrahimov – adding 3 months to his prison term. Giyas’s father Hasan Ibrahimov was sentenced to 6 months community service.