April 22, 2015, an Azerbaijani court sentenced Intigam Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s leading human rights lawyer, to seven years and six months in prison on what are questionable charges.
Aliyev was convicted on what Baku’s Grave Crimes Court says are the following “politically motivated” charges: tax evasion, illegal business activities, embezzlement, or the misappropriation of funds, and abuse of authority. On April 16, 2015, the same court sentenced Rasul Jafarov, another human rights defender, to 6.5 years on similar charges.
Giorgi Gogia, who according to the article is the senior South Caucasus researcher at Human Rights Watch, explains that Aliyev is Azerbaijan’s key figure in human rights advocacy. If this conviction and sentencing isn’t lifted, it would mean that future victims of human rights abuse in Azerbaijan have lost one of their strongest advocates.
Aliyev is a lawyer and chair of the Legal Education Society, which disputed human rights cases in domestic courts. He was one of the first Azerbaijani lawyers to bring cases to the European Court of Human Rights and has also trained the republic’s human rights lawyers. In August 2014, Azerbaijani authorities confiscated the group’s computers and documents and shut down its office. In addition to Aliyev’s arrest, authorities have started applying a new series of what seem to be extremely restrictive laws on nongovernmental organizations, including requiring a government license of foreign donor organizations and government speculation of grants awarded. Authorities have also frozen bank accounts of over 50 groups, and in some cases accounts of individual staff members.
Human Rights Watch argues that the charges are politically motivated, and mock what was once an acceptable justice system before Aliyev’s arrest. I agree; if his position of human rights advocacy is so great and influential, then he would represent a problem in the eyes of more controlling authorities. However political motivation charges aren’t new, this kind of corruption has been around for years. What’s more disturbing is that Aliyev is in fact one of the leading human rights advocates in the area, and without his guidance a stream of cases will be left defenseless. A worse possibility is if other strict governments follow this example, and we start to see a decline in cases of human rights being disputed.
Read the article here: http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/22/azerbaijan-human-rights-lawyer-convicted