Azerbaijan: Writer Ill-Treated in Prison; Serious Health Concerns

By | January 30, 2017 at 12:11 pm | No comments | Campaigns | Tags: ,

Azerbaijan: Writer ill-treated in prison; serious health concerns

PEN International is deeply concerned about reports that on January 23, 2017 writer and blogger Rashad Ramazanov was moved into solitary confinement at Baku Prison #2, where he is serving a nine-year sentence for his anti-government writings. He is also being denied family visits and access to his lawyer. Ramazanov suffers from a number of medical problems and PEN International has serious concerns for his well-being and physical integrity.

PEN believes that the charges against Ramazanov are politically motivated and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

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Please send appeals to the Azerbaijani authorities:

  • Expressing serious concern for the health and well-being of writer Rashad Ramazanov, who has been moved to solitary confinement and is being denied access to his family and lawyer.
  • Protesting his detention on politically motivated charges, and calling on the Azerbaijani authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally and to overturn his conviction and sentence;
  • Call on Azerbaijan to cease its campaign of intimidation directed at opposition or critical voices and to comply with its obligations under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which Azerbaijan is a state party) to protect the right to freedom of expression.

Please send your letters via the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in your country.  Addresses may be found here.

Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after February 28, 2017. ***

SOLIDARITY
Please send messages of support to Rashad Ramazanov in prison at the following address:

Mr. Rashad Ramazanov
Prison #2
Address 2 sayli Cezachekme Muessisesi
AZ 1045, Baku, Khazar rayonu, Bina qesebesi
BAKU, AZERBAIJAN

Note to PEN Centres: Please keep us informed of any action you take in regards to Ramazanov’s case, including any responses you receive from the authorities.

Background

Writer and blogger Rashad Ramazanov (pen-name Rashad Hagigat Agaaddin) was arrested on May 9, 2013 and sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of “illegal possession and sale of drugs” (Article 234.4.3 of the Criminal Code). Ramazanov is well-known for his anti-government postings, and PEN International considers the charges against him to be politically motivated. There is a clear pattern of the Azerbaijani authorities using charges of drugs or firearms possession, “hooliganism” or tax evasion to arrest and imprison writers and journalists who criticize the authorities.

Rashad Ramazanov was arrested near the “20 January” metro station by officers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and taken to the Department for Combating Organized Crime. The police claim to have found nine grams of heroin on his person, although he says it was planted by officers during his arrest, when he was also beaten up. Ramazanov also reports being tortured during interrogation. On August 7, 2013, his case was referred to the Baku Court of Grave Crimes and he was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison on November 13, 2013. On May 14, 2014, Ramazanov’s appeal against his conviction was dismissed.

On January 25, 2017 Rashad Ramazanov’s wife, Konul Ismailova, reported that he is in a very bad situation. He has been punished with 15 days in solitary confinement that began on Monday, January 23, 2017. The reason for this punishment is not yet known. On January 24, 2017 Konul Ismailova went to Prison Camp #2 in Baku where Rashad Ramazanov is being held, but prison officials did not permit her to see him. Ramazanov’s lawyer tried to see him as well and was also denied permission.

Ramazanov’s wife is very concerned for his well-being because the conditions are poor and he suffers from a number of health problems as a result of his imprisonment. Most serious is tuberculosis, which he contracted during a previous imprisonment in 2005, when he was arbitrarily detained without charge for several months by the Ministry of Internal Affairs for criticism of Haydar Aliyev, the then-ruler of Azerbaijan, in his book One Hundred Muslims.

Rashad Ramazanov, aged thirty-five, graduated in 2004 from Baku State University with a Masters degree in ecology before going on to study for a PhD in Philosophy, Sociology and Law from the Institute of National Sciences Academy of  Azerbaijan. He is the author of seven books and many articles. His academic articles have been published by the National Sciences Academy of Azerbaijan and other institutes. He has also been an active and outspoken political commentator on social media, and has published articles critical of the government on his Facebook page under the pen-name of Rashad Haqiqat Agaddin(http://on.fb.me/12G0WJE). He reports receiving many warnings and threats from the authorities for his critical online writings, and has also received death threats from radical Islamist extremists in Baku for his liberal views. As a result of these threats he fled to Turkey in 2009 with his wife and one-year-old daughter. They returned to Azerbaijan a year later, but the threats resumed and he lived apart from his family until 2012 in order to protect them. His wife was heavily pregnant with their second child at the time of his 2013 arrest, and his son was born on May 30, 2013, 21 days after his arrest. His wife reports living under heavy surveillance, and the stress is having an impact on her health.

PEN’s Work on Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is undergoing an unprecedented crackdown on civil society. The challenges faced by opposition voices or critical journalists are severe and frequent, and include death threats, surveillance, judicial harassment and violence. Despite the much-lauded release of political prisoners in March 2016, the persecution of critical voices in Azerbaijan has accelerated in recent months. Currently, dozens of journalists and activists are behind bars for exercising their right to free expression in Azerbaijan. These issues, including the case of Rashad Ramazanov, were highlighted in PEN’s 2016 World Press Freedom Day campaign. In August 2016 PEN International joined the Sports For Rights Coalition in a campaign calling for greater respect of human rights and freedom of expression in Azerbaijan and the immediate and unconditional release of political prisoners, including writers and journalists.

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