AZERBAIJAN: Allegations of ill-treatment in detention

April 7, 2008

SUMMARY
Amnesty International continues to receive allegations of ill-treatment of detainees by Azerbaijani law enforcement officials. In some cases it has been alleged that prisoners have been beaten in pre-trial detention in order to obtain confessions, and that family members of suspects in hiding have been beaten in an attempt to obtain information on their relatives whereabouts. In other cases it has been alleged that prisoners in ill-health have not received adequate medical treatment, and that at least two people died as a result of this over the last year. General conditions for many in pre-trial detention are also reported to be harsh, with overcrowding so severe in some prisons that inmates are forced to take it in turns to sleep while others in the cell stand.
Restricted access by independent observers makes verification of these allegations difficult, and Amnesty International has had no response to its concerns about ill-treatment which have been raised on a number of occasions with the Azerbaijani authorities.
Cases illustrating Amnesty Internationals concerns are detailed in this paper. They relate to political prisoners, although Amnesty International is also concerned about other more general allegations about ill-treatment of criminal prisoners.

AZERBAIJAN
Allegations of ill-treatment in detention

Introduction

Amnesty International continues to receive allegations of ill-treatment of detainees by Azerbaijani law enforcement officials. In some cases it has been alleged that prisoners have been beaten in pre-trial detention in order to obtain confessions, and that family members of suspects in hiding have been beaten in an attempt to obtain information on their relatives whereabouts. In other cases it has been alleged that prisoners in ill-health have not received adequate medical treatment, and that at least two people died as a result of this over the last year. General conditions for many in pre-trial detention are also reported to be harsh, with overcrowding so severe in some prisons that inmates are forced to take it in turns to sleep while others in the cell stand.
Restricted access by independent observers makes verification of these allegations difficult, and Amnesty International has had no response to its concerns about ill-treatment which have been raised on a number of occasions with the Azerbaijani authorities.
Cases illustrating Amnesty Internationals concerns are detailed below. They relate to political prisoners1 , although Amnesty International is also concerned about other more general allegations about ill-treatment of criminal prisoners.

Deaths in custody

Shahmardan Mahammad oglu Jafarov

Shahmardan (also known as Shahsultan ) Jafarov died in custody in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku during the night of 29 to 30 June 1995. A parliamentarian and a member of the opposition Popular Front of Azerbaijan (PFA), he had sustained serious gunshot wounds in a clash with police on 17 June 1995 near the village of Abragunis in the Julfa district of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (NAR). He was operated on twice in a hospital in Nakhchivan, then transferred to Shuvelyan prison (officially known as investigation-isolation prison No. 3) in Baku. It is alleged that the medical treatment he received there was inadequate, and that a transfer to a hospital attached to the Ministry of Internal Affairs occurred too late to save him.
According to reports, Shahmardan Jafarov had been the head in the NAR of an illegal armed unit which was disarmed by government forces in August 1994. Over 20 people were arrested, but Shahmardan Jafarov evaded detention at that time. In May 1995 parliament voted to lift his parliamentary immunity from prosecution, and he was eventually detained by police the following month.
The circumstances of his detention on 17 June are disputed. According to the PFA, a police patrol ambushed Shahmardan Jafarov as he was travelling by car, and opened fire first. The Ministry of Internal Affairs, however, reports 2 that Shahmardan Jafarov and four companions opened fire first, after ignoring a police order to stop the car. In a report in the newspaper Yeni Musavat on 23 June it was also alleged that the police left the scene after an exchange of fire, and that it was local residents who transported Shahmardan Jafarov to the Nakhchivan City Hospital.
Amnesty International has urged the authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Shahmardan Jafarov, and to make the findings public.

Aypara Nasreddin oglu Aliyev
Aypara Aliyev died in a prison hospital in Baku on 25 November 1995, after over a year in custody. According to unofficial sources he suffered from cirrhosis of the liver, kidney insufficiency, and swelling of the legs and abdomen. The official cause of death is currently not known to Amnesty International.
Aypara Aliyev was a senior lecturer at the Azerbaijani Agricultural University, and a deputy of the City Council in Ganja, a city in the north-west of Azerbaijan. He was also a member of the opposition Social Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (SDPA).
He was arrested on 7 October 1994 at his apartment in Ganja, in connection with a coup attempt several days earlier in which a personal friend, the then Prime Minister Surat Huseynov, was later implicated 3.
. It is alleged that Aypara Aliyev was arrested without the sanction of the prosecutors office, and without permission having been obtained in advance from the City Council (necessary in order to waive his immunity as a deputy). It is also reported that he was officially charged after 14 days in detention, which is four days beyond the legal time period in which a person may be held prior to being charged4. Aypara Aliyev was eventually transferred from Ganja to an investigation-isolation prison in Baku.
In connection with the coup attempt it is reported that Aypara Aliyev was charged with treason (Article 57 of the Criminal Code), organizational activity directed towards the commission of especially dangerous state crimes (Article 65), and establishing illegal armed formations (Article 70-2), all of which carry a possible death sentence. Aypara Aliyev was also charged with embezzlement (Article 86) and forgery (Article 194) – he was reportedly accused of falsifying documents to obtain the registration of a charitable society named Nidjat (Salvation), and of stealing large sums of money from the society. The Chairman of Nidjat, Nusret Qasim oglu Budaqov, was returned by Russia to Azerbaijan to face similar charges at the end of May 1995, but died in the investigation-isolation prison of the Ministry of National Security on 10 July. Amnesty International has no information at present on the cause of death.
Aypara Aliyev is said to have been denied permission for at least several weeks to receive food parcels from relatives, in order to supplement the meagre prison diet, and it is also alleged that he was not given the medical care appropriate for his state of health. His trial, set to begin in August 1995, was postponed on grounds of his ill-health, and he was transferred from Bakus Bayilov prison (officially known as investigation-isolation prison No. 1) to a prison medical facility after he fell into a coma on 22 October. He died there on 25 November, aged 36.
Amnesty International wrote twice to the authorities before Aypara Aliyevs death, urging that he receive all appropriate medical treatment. Following his death the organization approached the authorities again, seeking details on the circumstances under which Aypara Aliyev died and also whether he had been permitted to receive regular food parcels from his relatives. Amnesty International also invited the authorities comments on allegations that he was arrested without the sanction of the prosecutors office or the prior permission of Ganja City Council, and that he was held before formal charge four days beyond the 10-day time limit set, as the organization understands, by Azerbaijani law.

Allegations of beatings and ill-treatment

Rahim Hasan oglu Qaziyev

Several relatives of Rahim Qaziyev, a former member of parliament and Minister of Defence who is currently in hiding, are said to have been beaten after they were detained by law enforcement officials in August 1995. At least three detained then are believed still to be under arrest, including one who is said to be currently in very poor health. A fourth family member is also reported to have been subsequently arrested.
Rahim Qaziyev was arrested in Baku in November 1993, charged with large-scale theft of state property (Article 88-1), illegal possession of a weapon (Article 220 pt 2) and the military crime of neglect of duty in a combat situation (Article 255). The latter charge related to the fall of the towns of Shusha and Lachin in May 1992, while he was Minister of Defence, following an assault by ethnic Armenian forces in connection with the conflict over the disputed region of Karabakh 5 . His trial opened in July 1994.
In September 1994, however, Rahim Qaziyev and three other prisoners escaped from the investigation-isolation prison of the Ministry of National Security (MNS) in Baku. Rahim Qaziyev has been in hiding since then, although the trial continued without him. He was eventually sentenced to death in absentia in May 1995.
Unofficial sources allege that a number of Rahim Qaziyevs relatives were beaten severely by law enforcement officials after they were detained during a series of raids in Baku and his home town of Sheki in August 1995. They included his brother Rahab, and cousins Mamed and Farid (also referred to as Farda) Qaziyev. All three are still in pre-trial detention in Baku -Mamed and Farid in a cell together in the investigation-isolation prison of the MNS, and Rahab in Shuvelyan prison. Details of the injuries they are said to have sustained while being taken into custody are not known to Amnesty International. However, unofficial sources further reported in December 1995 that Mamed Qaziyev was in very poor health, suffering from cancer, and that he was not receiving adequate medical treatment. The charges against them are believed to include the illegal possession of arms. Some unofficial sources allege that the charges are fabricated, and have been brought as a means of exerting pressure of Rahim Qaziyev to give himself up.
Another member of Rahim Qaziyevs family, his uncle Sabir Qaziyev, was reportedly arrested in October 1995 in Sheki after four hand grenades were said to have been found during a search of his house by MNS officials. Sabir Qaziyev, the father of Mamed and Farid, is said to have claimed that he saw the MNS officials plant the grenades in his presence.
Amnesty International has urged the Azerbaijani authorities to conduct a comprehensive and impartial investigation into the allegations that Rahab, Mamed and Farid Qaziyev were beaten in detention; to make the findings public; and to bring to justice anyone found to be responsible. Amnesty International has also urged that Mamed Qaziyev be granted all appropriate medical treatment. The organization is in addition seeking further information on the charge or charges against those members of Rahim Qaziyevs family who are currently imprisoned. In line with its work against the death penalty 6, Amnesty International is urging that the death sentence passed on Rahim Qaziyev be commuted.

Alakram Alakbar oglu Hummatov (also known as Aliakram Humbatov)

Alakram Hummatov, a former department head in the Ministry of Defence, is currently under arrest in Baku. He has allegedly been beaten while in detention, and his 14-year-old son is also said to have been beaten and burned with cigarettes by police seeking the whereabouts of Alakrams wife, who is currently in hiding.
In June 1993, amid general political unrest in Azerbaijan, Alakram Hummatov announced the creation of a self-proclaimed Talish-Mugan Autonomous Republic (TMR), based around the southern city of Lenkaran and incorporating seven administrative districts in the area 7 . He was declared President of the TMR, but the authorities eventually restored control over the area in August and Alakram Hummatov went into hiding.
He was eventually detained on 9 December 1993 and transferred to Baku. Nine months later he was among four prisoners (including Rahim Qaziyev, above) who escaped from the investigation-isolation prison of the MNS. Alakram Hummatov went into hiding again, and it is reported that his relatives suffered harassment by police trying to discover his whereabouts. His wife Sudaba Rasulova, for example, is said to have been detained without charge in Lenkaran at the beginning of July 1995, effectively as a hostage to force her husband to give himself up. Alakram Hummatov returned to his home on 3 August, and was rearrested. Sudaba Rasulova was released, but went into hiding after the authorities reportedly sought to arrest her again three days later.
Alakram Hummatov is said to have been beaten after he was transferred to Baku following this second arrest, but no specific details of injuries allegedly sustained are currently available to Amnesty International. Police seeking Sudaba Rasulova are also said to have beaten the couples eldest child, 14-year-old Ramal Hummatov, on several occasions in an attempt to force him to reveal the location of his mother. One beating is said to have taken place at a Lenkaran police station on 5 September 1995, in the presence of the boys grandmother. On another occasion, the date of which is not known, the police are said to have inflicted cigarette burns on Ramal Hummatovs body.
Alakram Hummatov is currently standing trial in the Military Collegium of the Azerbaijani Supreme Court, on a range of charges in connection with events around the proclamation of the TMR9. He faces a possible death sentence if convicted. Several of Alakram Hummatovs relatives were also reportedly arrested in August, possibly on a charge of harbouring him while he was in hiding. They include his brothers Nariman and Farman, his wifes brother Azad Rasulov, and his sisters husbands Bahadur Asadov, Saffail Mammedov and Meri Dadashev.
Amnesty International is calling on the Azerbaijani authorities to conduct a full and impartial investigation into the above reports of ill-treatment, with the results made public and any perpetrators brought to justice. Amnesty International is also seeking further information on the charge or charges brought against those relatives of Alakram Hummatov who are currently in detention.

Conditions in places of detention

Detailed information about the situation of detainees in prisons and corrective labour colonies, and verification of allegations of ill-treatment and harsh conditions, are difficult to obtain owing to problems of access (prisoners in pre-trial detention, for example, are generally not permitted visits from family members before the official investigation of the case has concluded ).
Overcrowding is said to be a severe problem in pre-trial detention. Movsum Aliyev, for example, was held in Bayilov prison No. 1 in Baku for several months before his release on 18 February 1995 8 . He reports that the cell where he was held contained 35 men, instead of the official capacity of 14, and that they had to take it in turns to lie down to sleep. The non-governmental Human Rights Centre of Azerbaijan (HCA) alleged a similar situation in July, quoting sources close to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. According to these sources Bayilov prison contained 2,500 prisoners, although built for 900, Shuvelyan prison held 1,500 instead of 500, and there were 1,500 detained in Ganja citys investigation-isolation prison No. 2 in premises meant for 500 people.
Overcrowding has also been reported in the cells on death row in Bayilov prison. Although death sentences are passed regularly in Azerbaijan 9, no judicial executions have been reported since 1990 and a similar lack of actual commutations has led to a rising population on death row, estimated at around 100 in December 1995. 10According to one lawyer, prisoners on death row are held five or six to a cell designed for one, and are never taken out of their cell for exercise 11.
Overcrowding is said to create unsanitary conditions in which the spread of disease is difficult to check. A Health Ministry official, for example, was quoted by one publication in October 1995 12 as reporting that 244 inmates died in 1994 out of a total of 320 prisoners infected with tuberculosis, and that as of that date in 1995 the number of those prisoners suffering from tuberculosis had reached 1,200. These figures appear to refer to the prison population as a whole, not just in pre-trial detention.
Once tried, most prisoners are transferred from an investigation-isolation prison to a corrective labour colony to serve their sentence. Conditions in these colonies have been less frequently described, although there were press reports about a protests on 29 September 1995 by prisoners in colony No. 2 near the village of Bina. The prisoners were said to have gone on hunger-strike, and 120 of them staged a roof-top protest, to reinforce a number of demands relating to alleged ill-treatment in the colony. According to reports the prisoners complained, among other things, that they were subjected to physical humiliations and that bribes were frequently necessary to obtain clothes, food products and medicines.

Amnesty International ´s concerns
Amnesty International is concerned about the persistent reports of ill-treatment in detention in Azerbaijan, and is calling on the authorities to:

  • conduct comprehensive and impartial investigations into the deaths in custody of Shahmardan Jafarov and Aypara Aliyev, and make the results public;
  • conduct comprehensive and impartial investigations into all allegations of beatings and ill-treatment in custody, with the results made public and any perpetrators brought to justice;
  • ensure that all prisoners receive prompt and appropriate medical treatment.

_____________________________
Notes
1) Amnesty International uses a broad interpretation of the term political prisoner so as to cover all cases with a significant political element, for example criminal offences committed with a political motive or within a clear political context. Amnesty International does not call for the release of all political prisoners within this definition, nor does it call on governments to give political prisoners special conditions. Governments are obliged to treat all prisoners humanely and Amnesty International opposes the use of torture and the death penalty in all cases – both criminal and political – without reservation.

2) TURAN news agency, Baku, 19 June 1995

3) A mutiny by forces loyal to Surat Huseynov in June 1993 caused the then Azerbaijani President Abulfaz Elchibey, a leading figure in the Popular Front of Azerbaijan (PFA), to flee the capital. Members of his government who were supporters of the PFA mostly resigned or were dismissed, and some were subsequently arrested. Surat Huseynov became Prime Minister and Heydar Aliyev, initially appointed parliamentary chairman, was later elected as President. In October 1994 Surat Huseynov was implicated in an unsuccessful coup attempt against President Aliyev, and fled the country.

4) Article 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure

5) Intercommunal violence in the disputed Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, populated now almost exclusively by ethnic Armenians, escalated from 1988 into a large-scale armed conflict between Azerbaijani forces and those fighting on behalf of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. In a major push in May 1992 ethnic Armenian forces captured the town of Shusha and opened a land corridor to Armenia itself via Lachin. A cease-fire has been in force since May 1994

6) Amnesty International opposes the use of the death penalty in all cases without reservation, throughout the world, on the grounds that it is a violation of the right to life and that it constitutes the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Although there have been no judicial executions in Azerbaijan in recent years, unofficial sources report that there are currently some 100 people on death row in the country.

7) The Talish are a minority ethnically distinct from Azeris, and concentrated mainly in the south of Azerbaijan.

8) Movsum Aliyev, an historian, was arrested in December 1994 on a charge of defaming President Heidar Aliyev in an article which appeared in the newspaper Azadliq in September 1993.
9) The number of death sentences passed in Azerbaijan jumped from three in 1990 to 18 in 1991, 27 in 1992, 22 in 1993 and 23 in 1994, according to official statistics provided to Amnesty International.
10) The charges against him in connection with the TMR are reportedly treason (Article 57), establishing illegal armed formations (Article 70-2), unauthorized appropriation of the title or powers of an official (Article 192 part 2), unlawful deprivation of freedom (Article 120), breach of the inviolability of a citizens residence (Article 132) and illegal possession of a weapon (Article 220-2). To these has been added escape from a place of imprisonment (Article 185 part two).

11) Lawyer Teymur Ismiyev, quoted in the Baku journal The Advocate, 1 September 1995.

12) Baku journal Avrasiya of 7 October 1995, quoting a deputy director of the Health Department of the Main Directorate for the Implementation of Court Decisions, in the Ministry of Health.

http://asiapacific.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGEUR550011996?open&of=ENG-2EU

Azerbaijan: Anti-democratism and colonialism in the perspective of regional security

April 3, 2008

Azerbaijan: Anti-democratism and colonialism in the perspective of regional security

On February 7, a conference called “Caucasus and Middle East countries as potential partners in the process of forming regional security system” started in Yerevan, Armenia. REGNUM publishes full text of Major General, Commandant (INSS, MoD, Republic of Armenia), Doctor of Political Sciences, Fellow Member (Russian Academy of Military Sciences), Counterterrorism Fellow (National Defense University, USA), Member (CSTO Academic-Expert Council) Hayk Kotanjian’s report at the conference.

In the community of international organizations and scholars dealing with the settlement of the Karabakh Conflict, it is common to express peacemaking optimism concerning the settlement at the beginning of each year. With all due respect to these expectations, I believe the consideration of the problems of real peace and security in the region in the circle of experts as a no less useful effort.

The Karabakh Conflict resolution by peaceful democratic tools is one of the key problems for the security of Armenia, Azerbaijan and the South Caucasus region on the whole (1). This report is devoted to the evaluation of colonial essence of certain antidemocratic manifestations of the former metropolitan country’s policy in relation to the self-determined Nagorno Karabakh. The appraisal of essential characteristics of the states’ democratization processes in the region, as well as the realization of collective and individual human rights can be considered as an integrative political-legal basis for comprehension of regional security architecture formation process, founded on the principles of peaceful coexistence and cooperation enjoying equal rights in the South Caucasus.

Let’s begin with the overall assessments. While analyzing positions of the Azerbaijani authorities regarding the Karabakh issue as a regional security factor together with its other aspects, external assessments of the neighboring state leadership’s democracy in the context of international-legal norms of human rights and liberties protection are of special attention. A comprehensive non-partisan assessment is given to the authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan by Freedom House (2), a renowned US-based human rights organization. Like in previous years the last annual survey of Freedom House declared Azerbaijan as a “not free country”. Evidently, the democratization process is not smooth in the neighboring states — both in Armenia and in Georgia; however, Freedom House considers these two countries “partially free”, unlike “not free” Azerbaijan.

The Western colleagues consider the Azerbaijani government antidemocratic in its political-legal essence. This is, first of all, expressed in the dynastic inheritance and maintenance of power as well as in imposing by the head of the state, the cult of his father–the former ruler of the country–on the people of Azerbaijan thereby resembling to the sultanate-style dictatorships. It is well-known that the authorities’ response to the assessment of their democratization extent is considered as an important component of democracy by human rights organizations. From that perspective, it is symptomatic that on 24 December, 2007, the neighboring state’s President, ignoring the assessments of Freedom House, declared that the world community recognized Azerbaijan as a democratic country and called his son the next heir to the rule (3).

From stability and security perspectives, the “non-freedom” of our neighboring state is reflected in the colonialist manifestations towards the rights and liberties of the natives in the Eastern Transcaucasia. That first and foremost, concerns the right of peoples to equality and free external and internal self-determination. Antidemocratism of the neighboring state’s authorities regarding the Karabakh settlement is expressed in denying the fact of legal democratic suspension of the administrative and hierarchic relations between Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan (4).

The illegality of the declaration of independence by Azerbaijan in 1991 (5) without holding a referendum on the issue of seceding from the USSR lies in the basis of ignoring the mentioned political and legal fact. The fact of declaring Azerbaijan independent without fulfillment of the right of the people of Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast and other regions of densely-populated Armenian habitations to free and independent choice of their political status – in defiance of the USSR acting Law “On procedure of settling issues related to withdrawal of a Soviet Republic from the USSR” (6) is also qualified as a law infringement. Instead, by passing a legislative act on the liquidation of Nagorno Karabakh autonomy, the Republic of Azerbaijan proved to be an entity of metropolitan colonial oppression of Nagorno Karabakh people’s will to free self-determination (7). As a reaction to this illegal act, in compliance with the acting Law and principles of direct democracy, Nagorno Karabakh seceded from the Azerbaijan SSR– by holding a referendum.

At the beginning of 1992 the Republic of Azerbaijan unleashed a colonial war in response to proposal of the newly elected NKR authorities to start peace negotiations.

In addition to the violations of the legislation, the official Baku, proclaimed her Declaration of Independence in 1991 on the legal succession from the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, thereby depriving herself of the right to include Nagorno Karabakh in her territory, based on the fact that Nagorno Karabakh, having the status of a disputed territory, wasn’t included in the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan throughout the whole period of its existence from 1918 to 1920 (8). Heretofore, Karabakh was a constituent part of the Russian Empire and previously — of Persia, but not of Azerbaijan, which didn’t exist as an independent state until 1918.

Another colonial attribute of the antidemocratic nature of the Republic of Azerbaijan is the contradiction of her Constitution (9) to the essence of the international-legal norms on the peoples’ right to dispose their own destinies through free expression of popular will of the self-determined population in complete freedom, formulated by the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, the 1966 International Covenants on Human Rights and the UN Charter (10). World practice proves that in this very way, i.e. without interference from the metropolitan country, the rights of the peoples of Bangladesh, Eritrea, East Timor, Montenegro, and at this moment Kosovo too were exercised, to self-determine through free expression of will in the referenda held among the self-determining nations, and not in the populations of their former metropolitan countries, namely in Pakistan, Ethiopia, Indonesia or Yugoslavia-Serbia.

A few words concerning the manifestation of antidemocratism, namely the propaganda of xenophobia, violence and war are worth mentioning. The efforts by the OSCE Minsk Group on the peaceful resolution of Karabakh Conflict are based upon the UN fundamental principles: interdependence of peace, progress and democracy in relations with other nations, assuming that lasting peace is a premise, and democracy is an utmost condition for secure and sustainable development of nations. These very principles, reflected in the UN Charter and the Human Rights Covenants, exclude war propaganda. However, recurring statements by the statesmen of our neighboring country contain a direct threat of war. Suchlike public addresses by the head of our neighboring state to the population of almost all the regions in Azerbaijan at national events and international meetings, as well as their widespread broadcasting through mass media lead towards a motivation of inevitability of resumption of war in line with the propaganda of war and violence.

Yet by conducting open colonial war propaganda, the official Baku, contrary to the logic of the Minsk process, mobilizes its population to regain Karabakh by force. A concrete evidence of Azerbaijan’s preparation to war is its purposeful excess of limitations, anticipated by the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE). Instead of the permitted 220 tanks, Azerbaijan has 579, i.e., exceeding 2.63 times; instead of 220 armored combat vehicles-1174 (exceeding 5.34 times); instead of 285 artillery pieces of 100mm caliber and higher-788 ones (exceeding 2.76 times), instead of 100 battle planes-128 pieces (exceeding 1.28 times). It should be noted that Armenia continues to meet its international commitments according to the CFE Treaty, and the NKR declares its eagerness to become a responsible participant in this treaty which is of such importance for the regional security.

The statements by the statesmen of the neighboring country as a matter of fact are a gross violation of the International Covenants on civil and political, economic, social and cultural rights, and which are difficult not to qualify as incitement of its own people to genocidal actions towards the Armenian population. Unfortunately, an example of such a manifestation of colonial disregard towards their international commitments is given by the head of the neighboring state himself. In his last New Year address to the Azerbaijanis all over the world President Aliyev threatened the Nagorno Karabakh Armenians with ethnic cleansing: “If Armenians residing in Nagorno-Karabakh want to decide their fate, they must do it basing on the principle of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, but if they do not want to do this, they must leave Nagorno-Karabakh and create their second state in another place” (11).

The antidemocratic nature of the Baku authorities’ position on the peoples’ right to self-determination is reflected also upon domestic level regarding the rights of ethnic minorities to internal self-determination. Skepticism towards Baku’s promises to render high-level autonomy to the Armenians is based upon the complete disregard of the Azerbaijani Armenian refugees’ rights while conducting negotiations on fulfilling the rights of refugees and temporarily displaced persons of Azerbaijani nationality. A symptomatic and sobering example of the Aliyev regime’s colonialism and antidemocratism regarding the rights of ethnic minorities to internal self-determination within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is the routing of the Talysh Mugan Autonomous Republic in 1993 which was accompanied by its leader’s and his ethnopolitical companions’ arrest (12).

The fact of total obfuscation and pressure on accurate information in Azerbaijan is reflected in the assessments by “Freedom House” as one of the key features of the antidemocratic regime of this “not free” country. The official policy of the titular nation’s dominance to the detriment of parity with the native peoples of the neighboring country is reflected in the purposeful reconstruction of the scientific history of the nations of the region, which is targeted at distortion of their identity, as well as at reducing the place and the role the indigenous people in the historical development of the Eastern Transcaucasian culture. In the policy of historical falsifications the grounding of Azerbaijan’s historical right to the possession of territory, which has been populated by millennia-old indigenous Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia, has a special place. As it is known from the text of the President Aliyev’s speech at the anniversary meeting at the National Academy of Sciences, he made a political order on the falsification of the Eastern Transcaucasian history on 14 December, 2005 (13). As a result of the state policy of substitution of scientific history with totalitarian special propaganda, there occurs a break between the reality and the antiscientific history of the nations of Eastern Transcaucasia, framed up in the depths of current authorities.

The world academic community has already registered specific attempts on realizing the political order of the neighboring state’s head ­­­– to make primeval the history of densely-populated Turkic peoples residing in the territory of Eastern Transcaucasia, subject to Persia. The scientific fact of Turkic peoples’ habitation for 900 years in the South Caucasus seems an unacceptably small period for the Baku authorities. The falsifiers try to prolong that history for ten thousand years­ – back to the era of creating Mesolithic artifacts of Gobustan by the pre-historic man of the Stone Age Epoch. These distortions of the past, which were ordered from above, are pierced through the manipulations with the Iranian toponym “Azerbaijan” with its antiscientific usage towards Persia’s former Caucasian provinces for the periods. The political application of that term preceded well before the Turkic peoples settled in the territory of the Eastern Transcaucasia. As it is known, the Turkic peoples of Caucasian provinces also were not prominent as “Azerbaijanis” and their settling territory as “Azerbaijan” in the official documentation of the Russian Empire. In a word, the famous joke: “The USSR is a country with an unpredictable past” is fully applicable to Azerbaijan, where by the authorities’ order, a new history of the region is written­­–with a radical change of place and role of settled indigenous peoples and newly arrived nomadic tribes. These are the manipulating positions from which the Baku authorities impute to the Armenians the crimes against the “Azerbaijani people” even in those periods, when Turkic ancestors of contemporary Azerbaijanis didn’t enter the South Caucasus from Central Asia.

Preparing a ground for justifying colonial claims to the territory of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, the Baku authorities, manipulate the repatriation fact of the limited contingent of the Armenians (who had been taken away earlier to Persia by Shah Abbas) in the aftermath of the Russian-Persian War of 1828. Some of academicians politically committed by the Baku authorities try to thrust on the Azerbaijani community the opinion that all the Armenians arrived to the Eastern Transcaucasia. The given “scientifically tailored” propaganda is recently carried out right from President Aliyev’s mouth. Similar authorities’ violence of human rights on free access to the truthful scientific information targets at spoiling Azerbaijani people by the belief that Artsakh is allegedly the fatherland of Turkic peoples, and the Armenians in Karabakh and Armenia are, for the most part, either descendants of re-settlers or are not Armenians at all.

In the policy of demolishing the trust among nations, the Baku authorities spare a special place to conscious distortion of the information on the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire. State propaganda of disrespect for the memory of 1.5 million Armenian victims surpasses the boundaries of separate publications, taking the form of sacrilege, directed by the Baku authorities. For examples of coarse falsification of the Eastern Transcaucasian history, we may bring the attempts of politico “balancing” of the genocidal crimes against the Armenian population, which were committed at the beginning of the 20th century, with “the genocide against the Azerbaijanis”. Based upon these falsifications, the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan “On the Genocide against the Azerbaijanis” was issued in 1998 (14). The representatives of Baku intelligentsia themselves in the narrow confidential circle are mocking at the dishonest and dangerous way of political “consolidation of the Azerbaijani people” against the Armenian and Russian peoples. They know that as a matter of fact at the beginning of the 20th century, massacre of Armenians and resistance of Armenians to that massacre took place, as well as later–in response to pogroms of peaceful Armenian population in Sumgait in 1988 and in Baku in 1990.

It should be mentioned that the Baku authorities’ sneering at the pain and human dignity of the millions of Armenian families in the Diaspora together with the propaganda of xenophobia among the Azerbaijani population, play also a diametrically opposite role – it consolidates Armenians all over the world for adequate counteraction to the State defamation of the Armenian Genocide.

The recent campaign of commemorating the “genocide” victims, as if committed by Armenians against the Mountain Jews, serves to confront Armenians and Jews. The historic truth was defied by the manipulators (by means of the informational war) to such an extent of sneer, that excavating mass burials of the Armenians, killed at the beginning of the 20th century, are presented as “victims” of genocidal actions by the very true victims; that is the Armenians. The goal is to destroy centuries-old good neighborly relations that existed between Shirvan Armenians and the Mountain Jews, aiming to push Israel and Jewish lobby organizations to anti-Armenian positions.

Among similar outcomes of involving scientists in the antiscientific elaboration of the Baku regime’s informational war which is untwisted by special propagandists under the flag of human rights protection, the fact of falsifying the authorship of sneering at the victims’ bodies of the Khojalu tragedy deserves special attention. Details of the given provocation, as a tool for political struggle for power in Baku, are stated by fresh traces in the well-known interview of the Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutalibov to the Czech journalist Dana Mazalova (15). The Armenian party has all the proofs that corpses of those killed were in the responsibility zone of the Azerbaijani authorities and the physical contact of the Armenians with the bodies to abuse them was impossible.

The fact that the analytical community in Azerbaijan, as well as in Armenia, is represented by sufficiently wide spectrum of views on security realities and perspectives of our South Caucasian division of the European Neighborhood raises hopes. I was honored to know praiseworthy Azerbaijanis in the multinational professional environment, together with the impartial and worthy representatives of different states and organizations. I am sure that there are specialists in our neighboring country, who realize the counter-productivity of restoring the colonialism towards the Nagorno Karabakh’s people in the process of the European Neighborhood formation. The given problem could become a subject of an unbiased study for Azerbaijan’s politically non-committed scientists, who are preoccupied with perspectives of secure democratic development of the region, as well as for the co-chairs of the Minsk Group and international analytical community.

1. “National Security Strategy of the RA”. Yerevan, 2007, Special issue of defense-academic quarterly “Haikakan banak” MoD, RA. Freedom House. Map of Freedom in the World. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia (2007) (http://www.freedom house.org/template.cfm?page=363&year=2007&country=7129)

2. See Ilham Aliyev, “My Universities”, 24 December, 2007 (http://azerbaijan.news.az/index.php?Lng=aze&Pid=19934); Ilham Aliyev, excerpts from his direct address: “In the contemporary world the transition of power from one member of a family to another in itself isn’t considered as an antidemocratic fact”. “Moreover, I’d like to mention that the true heir of Heydar Aliyev is my younger son, Heydar Aliyev, the youngest member of our family”.

3. Act on the referendum results on the independence of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, 10 December, 1991, Stepanakert, Nagorno Karabakh Republic, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (http://www.nkr.am/rus/facts/referendum.html).

4. Constitutional Act “On the state independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan”, 18 October 1991, No 19-20.

5. See USSR Law “On procedure of settling issues related to withdrawal of a Soviet Republic from the USSR” No 1410-1 of 3 April 1990.” USSR Supreme Council (www.bestpravo.ru/ussr/data01/text10973.html).

6. AzR Law “On abolition NKAO AzR”, 26 November 1991. Registers of AzR SC, 1991, No 24.

7. See “Journal”. League of Nations, Geneva, No 17, p. 130: among the arguments lying in the basis of the resolution by the League of Nations on non-recognition of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, the fact of “impossibility of precise identification of the Azerbaijani real borders in connection with its territorial disputes with its neighbors” was mentioned.

8. See Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Chapter II. “Basis of the State”, Chapter III. “Basic Rights and Liberties of a Person and Citizen” (http://www.azerbaijan.az/GeneralInfo/Constitution/constitution 01 r.html).

9. See CSCE. Helsinki Final Act, 1 August, 1975. Principle VIII. OSCE website (www.osce.org/documents/msc/1975/08/4044 ru.pdf); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. UN GA Resolution 2200 A (XXI), 16 December, 1966. UN Centre for Human Rights: International Treaty Collection; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. UN GA Resolution 2200 A (XXI), 16 December, 1966, UN Centre for Human Rights. Human Rights: International Treaty Collection.

10. President Ilham Aliyev’s congratulations to the people of Azerbaijan on the occasion of the Solidarity Day of all the Azerbaijanis all over the world and New Year. 31 December, 2007 23:59. President Aliyev Heydar oglu Aliyev. Official website of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Documents/Addresses (http://www.president.az/articles.php/item_id=20080101020429299&sec_id=135).

11. See Farmoni Fakhraddin Aboszoda (Abbasov). The History of Our Republic. CentrAsia. 2003, (http://www.centrasia.ru/newsA.php4?st=1056939900).

12. See President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev’s speech at the ceremonial assembly, dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences (14-12-2005 14:15), http://www.president.az, the President of Azerbaijan, official website (http://www.president.az/print.php?item id=20070810125435235&sec id=11)

13. Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan “On the Genocide against the Azerbaijanis”. Heydar Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Baku, 26 March, 1998 (http://www.human.gov.az/?sehife=etrafli&dil=ru&sid=MTMyMjMzMTA4MTMyNjE1) or (http://www.azembassy.kz/data/file/31marth.pdf)

14. Interview of the AzR President Ayaz Mutalibov to the Czech journalist Dana Mazalova, “I am a humanist at heart”, “Nezavisimaya Gazeta”, 2 April, 1992.

http://www.regnum.ru/english/953962.html

The Truth about Khojalu Events- Azeri Sources Testify-

April 3, 2008

An anti-Armenian campaign has been hysterically raging in Azerbaijan throughout the years following the Khojalu events. The purpose of the campaign is to falsify the facts and bring discredit on Armenia in the eyes of the international community. The Khojalu events when peaceful people died were only the result of the political intrigues and struggle for power in Azerbaijan.

The Azerbaijani propaganda trumpeted about the ‘barbarities of Armenians’ to the whole world spreading terrifying shots by TV channels – a field covered by defiled corpses. It was said that Khojalu is the “revenge of Armenians for “Sumgait”.
The real reasons lying behind these events are more convincingly reflected in the testimonies of the Azeris themselves, both the participants, eyewitnesses of the events and those who knew the ins and outs in Baku.

Khojalu was the second after Shushi in its Azeri population in Artsakh-Nagorno Karabagh Republic (NKR). The settlement is found in the strategically vital place and divides the territory of Artsakh-Karabakh into two. It was the military strategic importance of Khojalu that since the very beginning of the National-liberation movement of the Armenian population in Artsakh the Azerbaijani authorities began intensive construction works and settling the Azeris from remote regions in Khojalu as well as Meskhetian Turks – since 1989. Because of this single-minded policy of changing the demographic situation in Artsakh and dissection of the Armenians of the region held by the Azerbaijani authorities the population of the settlement tripled from 2135 in 1988 to 6300 in 1991. Owing to this kind of artificial increase Khojalu was granted status of town. (Report of Memorial, Nezavisimaya gazeta, 18.06.1992). No doubt people were moving into a militarily and politically unstable region not on their own free will.

According to M. Safaroghli, an Azerbaijani journalist, “Khojalu was located in an important strategic position. Losing control over Khojalu would mean a political fiasco for Moutalibov”. (Newspaper “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” -“Independent Newspaper”- February, 1993). With Shushi and Aghdam, Khojalu was one of the key bases from where Stepanakert, the capital of NKR, was continuously bombed during three winter months – shelled steadily and mercilessly, with the use of artillery, antihail rocket systems and war missile emplacements.

The population of NKR which was in the danger of the total physical extinction by Azerbaijan could survive only by neutralizing the weapon emplacements of Khojalu and deblocking the airport. Hundreds of peaceful people were killed in Stepanakert as the result of the daily bombing from the close Khojalu. The military operation of the armed forced of NKR to neutralize the weapon emplacements of Khojalu was not a surprise for Azerbaijan. For the first time the Azeri side was notified about the forthcoming attack by TV nearly two months before the operation. Arif Yunusov, a well-known champion of human rights in Azerbiajan, wrote about that in “Izvestia”. The officials in Baku did not try to hide their awareness, including Ayaz Moutalibov, the president of Azerbaijan. He stressed that “… the offense on Khojalu was not a surprise” (“Ogoniok” (Fire) Magazine, N 14-15, 1992). In the interview to the “Nezavisimaya gazeta” newspaper he stated that “the corridor by which people could leave was reserved by Armenians” (“Nezavisimaya gazeta” newspaper, April 2, 1992). In his interview to the “Novoe Vremya” journal Moutalibov confirmed his statement: “It was obvious shooting the Khojalu people was organized by somebody for removing the power in Azerbaijan” (“Novoe Vremya” journal, March 6, 2001). As the result of these warnings most of the peaceful people of Khojalu moved to safe zones.

The following fact is another proof the Azerbaijani authorities were told on the forthcoming anticipatory assault of Armenians on Khojalu. By midFebruary 1992 before leaving for Minsk to the summit of the CIS, President A. Mutalibov ordered to throw all the collected reserves of the military equipment in the Aghdam region. 11 tanks and 12 infantry fighting machines BMP-2 were quickly delivered there, which with the available in Aghdam 44 caterpillar armored machines of BRDM type, equipped with 12 millimeters calibers machine-guns presented an inspiring force, which could help the Khojalu settlers in case of an attack in any moment, but was also threaten Stepanakert itself. (Kiril Stolyarov, op. cit. p. 251).
Besides, the Azerbaijani forces in Khojalu and Aghdam region were equipped with over 35. 000 units of machine-guns and submachine guns with enough number of cartridges ( Kiril Stolyarov, op. cit. p. 268).

By the beginning of the assault part of the civilian population of Khojalu left the settlement, and by the end of February 1992, according to various sources, some 1000 to 2500 people still remained there, mostly peaceful civilians and soldiers of Azerbaijani armed formations. On February 15 the Armenian side made an ultimatum: the civilian population of Khojalu was offered to leave with a white flag. (Helsinki Watch, op. cit., 1994, p. 20).
The detachments of NKR did everything possible to exclude the death of the peaceful population of the settlement and left a corridor for the safe evacuation of the peaceful population from the zone of military actions. The Azeri side was timely informed about the opened corridor which allowed to evacuate the people of Khojalu. Elman Mamedov, the mayor of Khojalu: “We knew the corridor was left for the exit of the peaceful people” (“Russkaya Misl” 03.03.1992, citation from “Bakinskie Rabochiy” newspaper).
In the beginning of the attack, started on February 25, at 23:00 p.m., the Armenian forces of NKR self-defense opened an aimed artillery fire against military objects and positions of the Azerbaijani forces, dislocated in the central part of the settlement. The successful shots spread havoc among the Azerbaijanis, which did not show serious resistance. Neither there was a more or less stubborn street fight in Khojalu; by 4 o’clock in the morning of February 26 the last centers of resistance were suppressed. Observers of the «Memorial» right protection organization inspecting the destructions in Khojalu confirmed the fact of artillery and not street fighting, which could result in many casualties. (Ibid.)
It is worth mentioning the order number 1, regulating the conduct of the members of the Armenian armed forces of NKR self-defense, strictly forbid any violence against the civilians of the adversary.
After the operation was over 11 bodies of Azeris were found by the rescue group “Artsakh” in the village and its neighboring areas, naturally, counting out the bodies of the members of the armed formations dressed in uniforms (their number was also small). The insignificant number of the peaceful victims of Khojalu in the view of the intense military actions undertaken to hold control over the settlement evidenced the Armenian side had taken all measures on ensuring the maximal possible security of the people of the village. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that a significant number of the peaceful population of Khojalu became victims of the operation. How many of the people of Khojalu were killed and where?
The Azeri side is categorically silent about the place of the death of hundreds of residents of the village. The truth is that all of them were coolly murdered at the distance of 11 km from Khojalu, about 2-3 km far from Aghdam which then used to be the regional military base of the Azeri armed forces. This mere fact is enough for casting light on the intricate story about the massive extinction of the residents of Khojalu. It is hard to understand why should the Armenians let the population of Khojalu flee from the besieged village to kill them on the approaches of Aghdam putting their lives at risk (then Aghdam was under the control of the Azeris).
In his interview to “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” Moutalibov stated that “however, the Armenians had left a corridor for the escape of the people. Why a fire should have opened then? (“Nezavisimaya Gazeta”, April 2, 1992). He linked the fact of the criminal fusillade of the peaceful people with the attempts of the opposition to remove him from power, laying the responsibility for the tragedy entirely on him. In his interview to “Novoye Vremia” (“New Time”) Magazine Moutalibov confirmed his statement which was made nine days before: “It was obvious the some people had organized the shooting for shifting the power in Azerbaijan” (“Novoye Vremia”, March 6, 2001). Similar statements and assessments of the Khojalu events were made by several other Azerbaijani top officials and journalists.
R. Hajiyev, member of the Operating Committee of Aghdam Branch of NFA (National Front of Azerbaijan): We could have helped the people of Khojalu because we had the resources and means. However, the authorities of the republic wanted to show to the people of Azerbaijan that they are not able to do so and ask for assisting the CIS Army and with the help of the latter also neutralize the opposition” (Moscow, “Izvestia”, April, 1992).
Tamerlan Karayev, the former Chairman of the Supreme Council of Azerbaijan testifies: “The tragedy was perpetrated by the Azeri authorities”, in particular, “some of the top officials” (“Moukhtalifat” Newspaper, April 28, 1992). Yana Mazalova, a Czech journalist, who, because of the oversight of the Azeris, was included in both of the groups of journalists who visited the place of the events on the first day and several days later, noticed the stunning difference how the bodies looked at the first and second site visits. When Mazalova visited the site immediately after the events she saw the bodies did not bear any traces of brutality whereas a couple of days later the bodies “adulterated” by the Armenians and “ready” for the cameras were demonstrated to the journalists.
Who killed the peaceful people of Khojalu and later defiled their bodies, if the tragedy took place not in the village liberated by the Armenians, and not along the direction of the humanitarian corridor, but on the close approaches of Aghdam town, a territory which was entirely under the control of the National Front of Azerbaijan? Chingiz Moustafayev (Fuat-oghli), an independent Azeri TV journalist and cameraman who filmed the aftereffect on February 28 and March 2, 1992, doubted the official version of Azerbaijan and began his own investigation. His life was the price for his very first report to the Moscow News Agency “DR-Press” about the possible involvement of the Azeri side in the crime: he was killed not far from Aghdam, and the details of the murder still remain not revealed.
Moustafayev reported about the flight to Khojalu. He noted that he could not film the dead bodies there, because “there was not a single killed person there …”. In the course of the first flight the journalists shot only a couple of dozens of bodies of the Azeri soldiers which were found not far from the village of Nakhichevanik. However, most of the bodies were near Aghdam where they were video-filmed on February 29 and later March 2. These tapes were displayed at the session of Milli Medjlis and, later, many TV channels of the world as an evidence of the massive manslaughter of the Azeri population of Khojalu. The first flight of the helicopter with the Azeri journalists on board took place on February 29, 1992. It is noteworthy the journalists who were told about the massive offense of the Azeris in Khojalu flew directly to the place of the events. However, they did not find any evidence of the happenings and flew back. During the second flight to the region of the massive slaughter, on March 2, 1992, the journalists noticed the positions of the dead bodies lying on the ground and the level of the injuries and physical impairment was astonishingly different compared to the first inspection. Chingiz Moustafayev (Fuat-oghli) told the Azeri president A. Moutalibov about the changed positions of the bodies and their physical impairment. Undoubtedly, by that time the Azeri president understood the reasons which caused falsifying the tragedy. Moutalibov gave a really prophetic answer to the journalist, “Chingiz, don’t tell anyone that you think something is wrong because they’ll kill you”. Chingiz Moutafayev was killed in the same field where he had shot the main Azeri “argument”.
The former president of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev personally admitted the “former leadership of Azerbaijan was also at fault of the Khojalu events”. As early as in April of 1992 the following was articulated by him, “The bloodshed will do good to us. We shouldn’t interfere in the course of events” (Bilik-Duniasi News Agency). It is out of question who gained from the “bloodshed”. Megapolis-Express wrote: “It is impossible not to admit that if the National Front of Azerbaijan in fact had defined far-reaching goals, it succeeded in addressing them. Moutalibov is compromised and forced out of his post, the international community is in shock, the Azeris and their brotherly Turks believed in the so-called “genocide of the Azerbaijani people in Khojalu”(“Megapolis-Express”, N17, 1992).
The Azeri mass media was silent in its comments on the Khojalu events about another tragic detail which was revealed later: 47 Armenians were held hostage in the “peaceful” Khojalu since February 26. After the liberation of Khojalu only 13 of these hostages were found in the settlement (including 6 women and 1 child), the remaining 34 were taken away by the Azeris in the unknown direction. All that is known about these hostages is that at the night of the operation they were driven away from the place of imprisonment, but not from the settlement. There is no information about their further status as hostages. It is obvious the bodies of the Armenian hostages were tormented beyond the degree when they could be identified. This was done to create the illusion the bodies of the victims “had been defiled” by the Armenians. This is the reason why the bodies of the wretched victims were outraged to the extent that it was impossible to identify the victims.
It follows from the above-described facts the blame for the death of the peaceful people of Khojalu and those Armenians who had been taken hostage in the village lies on the Azeris. The Azerbaijani side committed a crime against its own people, and the motivation lies in the political intrigues and lust for power.

Other Testimonies
It is obvious that those who wanted to make an appearance of disfiguring of corpses by Armenians, disfigured first the bodies of the Armenian hostages, in order they are never identified. Clothes were taken off the corpses, the bodies of unlucky victims were treated outrageously, being changed beyond recognition.
Rahim Ghaziev, one of the former Azeri defense ministers who was jailed for 10 years on charge of state treason (He was accused of leaving Shushi to Armenians), said in the interview to http://www.realazer.com that a trap was prepared for Mutalibov in Khojalu to remove him.
Ghaziev said that he received information about the attack of the Armenian forces against Khojalu on February 16, 1992. “On February 25, I again received information about the preparations of the attack,” Ghaziev said. He added the Azeri Armed Forces had enough arms to help the Khojalu people and stop the Armenians. Those days, the Azeri defense minister said that it was possible to avert the disaster and keep their positions.
Tamerlan Karaev, former Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Azerbaijani Republic, testifies: “The tragedy was realized by the authorities of Azerbaijan”, and concretely – “somebody of those high standing” (“Moukhalifat” newspaper, April 28, 1992).
The Armenian forces did their best to escape unnecessary deaths on the side of the civilian population of Khojalu. The mayor of Khojalu Elman Mamedov also knew about the corridor: “We knew the corridor was left for the civilian population to leave…”(Russkaya misl’, 03.03.1992. Nezavisimaya gazeta, 18.06.1992, Nezavisimaya gazeta, 02.04.1992)
According to the report made by “Memorial”, nearly 200-300 people remained in Khojalu, hiding in the basements of the houses. After the assault they were moved to Stepanakert and were provided with food and medicines. The Armenian side stated it would agree to let them in exchange for its hostages. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, 18.06.1992, Nezavisimaya gazeta, 02.04.1992).
The Armenians told Azerbaijanis about the existence of the humanitarian corridor also by loudspeakers, although it is possible the greater part of the Khojalu inhabitants could had not heard the messages. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, 18.06.1992). Indeed, it is likely, that not all the inhabitants of Khojalu had heard the warning, but the masses of people moving in safe directions could have led the rest as well.
It is worth mentioning, that few days before the start of the assault the representatives of the Armenian side had repeatedly told the authorities of Khojalu on the coming offensive using radio communication, calling them to take out the civilian population from the settlement immediately. The fact that this information was received by the Azerbaijani side and sent to Baku is confirmed also by some publications in Azerbaijani newspapers (Bakinskaya gazeta). (Ibid.)

Internet as a field of information war against Armenia
The Azerbaijani party makes an active use of internet in an information war against Armenia and NKR. In connection with the fact that internet-mass media influence becomes more and more dominant in the world, significance of information net on Artsakh-Karabakh conflict also increases. Besides, various internet-communities become more and more influential on public opinion shaping.
The number of anti-Armenian sites on Artsakh-Karabakh issue, which are mainly created in Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani communities settled in other countries, are increasing year by year. The sites of anti-Armenian character are focused on denying the Armenian Genocide, falsifying the Armenian history, the activity of ASALA organization are also being created by the initiative of Turkey, however, today Baku is more active than its “elder brother.”
In particular, to make sure of the big number of Azerbaijani-Turkish sites, one should only type the words “Karabagh” or “Garabagh” in the internet searching systems (www.google.com, http://www.yahoo.com etc.) and the system will show up more Azerbaijani and Turkish than Armenian information on Artsakh-Karabakh. At the same time, if we make a search by the word “Artsakh,” the number of Armenian sites found will prevail, however, one should consider the international community is almost unfamiliar with the other name of Karabagh-Artsakh, and to get acquainted with this subject in the internet sites the foreigners will look for the names “Karabakh” and “Nagorno-Karabakh.” In this way Azerbaijan and Turkey have carried out much more propagandist work to succeed, which, to some extent has changed the state of affairs in the information war, and, is not always counteracted by the Armenian party.

The Azerbaijani party has well-developed means for spreading disinformation. For the last few years information-analytical portal Day.az has been dynamically developing under the private support of the state. The materials have been published in Russian and English by the resources of the member of Permanent Commission on International Relations Milli Mejilis and inter-Parliamentary ties of Anar Mamedkhanov.
According to information of different ratings, Day.az is visited by more than 10 thousand a day. Reference index of edition in internet is equal to 2200, which, according to Yandex system data, is the 38th showing among all the Russian-language editions in internet. Thus, while giving a search in Yandex search system by key words “Armenia news”, Day.az takes the second place (the first place is not taken by a merely Armenian resource either – the project of RIA News “News-Armenia” takes that place). Considering that according to statistics most of the users make use mainly of the first ten showings of searching machine, Day.az takes the position of one of the main sources of information on Armenia.

Day.az periodically spreads disinformation in internet. At the same time they don’t use their own information, but make reference to Azerbaijani information agency APA, which is a permanent provider of false information on Armenia and Artsakh-Karabakh. Considering popularity and high rating of Day.az’s searching machines, such materials spread in global net very quickly.
http://www.irevan-az.com –This is an Azerbaijani site in Armenian, where Baku places agitation materials, news and disinformation, analogical articles, historical features, audio recordings, photos and even caricatures on the subject. In the site there are sections about the Artsakh-Karabakh war, Khojalu events, photoarchives. The site also contains photos of Artsakh “safe haven,” today’s Aghdam, devastated settlements of Ghubatli. It is not quite clear how the Azerbaijani party managed to get new photos of Artsakh’s safety haven, that is the photos of districts which are contiguous to the militarized and frontlines?
It should also be mentioned the materials of the above mentioned site are not stated in a literate Armenian. However, these mistakes are not that much, especially if we consider the Armenian sites themselves are not that ideal. One should suppose the site is made by some Azerbaijanis who occurred to live in Armenia in the past and know the language. A more “pessimistic” version of recruiting Armenian specialist is less possible but theoretically is not excluded. However, the site is made by the Azerbaijani “state order.”
The Armenian party hasn’t got any propagandistic site in Azerbaijani language. As it is known, there are a few Turkish versions – the Turkish section of the “Azg” newspaper and the Turkish language site http://www.ermeni.org.

One should mention the Armenian site may pursuit no serious propagandistic objectives, as Baku has minimum chances to influence on the Armenian reader to reconsider his position. Here it is more important the fact the Azerbaijanis embrace such a “broad front” creating sites not only in Russian, English and French languages but also in Armenian. Such a site has not only propagandistic effect, but also the effect of “physiological attack.” The enemy has been obviously carrying out active work. The Russian version of the site was later created.

The site http://www.iravan.com represents “data” the territory of the present Armenia is historically Azerbaijani. Here are separately cited all the Armenian toponyms which have Azerbaijani-Turkish origin and have been made Armenian: Amamlu (Spitak), Chomburuk (Chambarak), Aghbulagh (Lusaghbyur), Nor Bayazet (Gavar), Jalaloghli (Stepanavan), etc. Here are also brought encyclopedic data about settling these towns and localities, rise in the number of population, dates the toponyms changed. In the site is placed the picture of Ararat Mountain as the symbol of “nostalgia” of Azerbaijanis for Eastern Armenia.
http://www.karabakh.gen.az is concentrated on the subjects “genocides of Azerbaijanis” in Khojalu, “Armenian terrorism” and the Karabakh war. In his large publication inserted in the site “professor” Ismail Veliev condemns the activity and political line of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Party. Adil Badirov mentions the information on the strength of army in Karabakh is false and that it is being spread by journalists bribed by Armenians and at the same time remembers about the film on the Russian HTB channel about the NKR defense army. With other falsified information, the site contains false information about “destruction of Azerbaijani monuments in Armenia and especially in Zangezur and in the safe haven.”

The site http://www.karabakh.co.uk has been made by the “Azerbaijani community in London,” in particular, by the members of this structure – Tale and Nijad Heydarovs. This site as well has sections of historical feature, photos, audio records, integrity of information and disinformation. Here are mentioned the names of the well-known Azerbaijani military and cultural men. The list of Azerbaijani military men of Karabakhi origin is limited by 5 names, 3 of which lived in the Middle Age, and the other two were known in the period of Soviet rule – Colonel Aslan Vezirov and General Khalil Mamedov. In this regard the list of only Armenian marshals surpasses the one of all the Azerbaijani high-ranking military men taken together.

The site http://www.human.az has been made by the state commission engaged in the issues of the missing prisoners of war. From the technical standpoint the site has quite a high-level: besides the information section, it has a section of video spots in multimedia format, music and clips. From the standpoint of contents, it reflects all the sites mentioned above. There is a section on “Armenian terrorism,” it also presents the UN decisions on Artsakh-Karabakh issue, the decree of H. Aliyev to celebrate the 31st of March as the “day of Azerbaijani genocide,” etc.

Besides the sections mentioned above the site http://www.khocaly.s5.com turns to the personality of Ramil Safarov, presenting him in a positive light. Here are separately presented prewar photos of territories controlled by NKR at present, “history of Azerbaijani genocide perpetrated by Armenians in 1918-20.” “20% of the Azerbaijani Republic is still occupied by Armenians. Nothing and no one is forgotten. This land is calling for its only patriotic generation – us,” – is mentioned in the site.

The subject of Khojalu “genocide” is also being touched in the site http://www.khojaly.net. Here are inserted photos, documents and data. The site http://azerigenocide.org again touches on the subject of “genocide in Khojalu” and “other perpetrations of genocide against the Azerbaijani nation.”

The site http://aliyevheritage.org is an online library, where one can find information about the activity of H. Aliyev, his speeches and announcements. The site was created on May10, 2004 and has sections in 26 languages (!). In the “electronic kitabkhana” are presented the speeches of H. Aliyeb on Karabakh issue in chronological order – from 1993 to 2002.

On the site http://www.youtube.com are inserted two video spots on NK subject, in one of which one can hear Azerbaijani music and in the second one are presented allegedly Russian hirelings fighting in the NKR on the side of Armenians.
The list of Azerbaijani sites of anti-Armenian character is not limited by the ones mentioned above. The sites http://karabakh-doc.azerall.info, http://www.tallarmeniantale.com, http://www.war-culture.az, http://conflict.aznet.org, http://www.azerbaijanfoundation.org, http://www.human.gov.az, http://www.azeri.ws, http://www.axtar.az, http://www.azeribook.com, http://shusha.aznet.org are not all the ones engaged in Azerbaijani propagandistic attacks. It seems to be expedient to make the strategy of the RA information security more clear and work out mechanisms of corresponding “counterattacks.”

Recognized the “genocide”
Azerbaijani Mili mejlis (in 2007) has unanimously qualified the tragic events during fights that took place in Khojalu as “genocide against Azerbaijani nation” and called on other countries to name the events as “genocide”.
The announcement made by the Azerbaijani Parliament runs, that on February 26, 1992 “Russian military unit 366, headed by Armenian and Russian commanders” have attacked and “massacred” Khojalu.

“Armenia fails to adeduately answer Azeri propaganda”, political scientist believes
Levon Melik Shahnazaryan, a political scientist, told a press conference the Armenian side does not properly react to Azeri propaganda. He says no films are shown on Kojalu whereas he claims that Azeries have shot several films on Khojalu events.
As a participant of freedom fight, Shahnazaryan reminds that Khojalu residents were killed in Aghdam and not Khojalu. Referring to an Azeri program, he said an Azeri reporter made a tour in the area and shot dead bodies. “Two days later they showed the dead bodies were tortured. If Aghdam was under the control of Azerbaijanis and the reporters could freely make pictures there, it means the Armenian forces had nothing to do with the crime,” the speaker said. “Many things are just made up, which causes harm to the image of our nation,” the political scientist says.

Khojalu “victims” memorial in Hague

The “Eni Safak” Turkish newspaper on February 4 (2008) announced that a memorial dedicated to the “Khojalu Massacre” is to be erected in Hague. The monument is being new designed and it is to be placed in the Muslim part of the Hague military cemetery.
According to the newspaper, the initiative of erecting the monument belongs to the Azeri community of the Netherlands, which had been struggling for the approval of the municipality for almost a year. As the head of the Azeri community of the Netherlands Ilhan Askin said, the monument is to commemorate the “Massacre of Khojalu”. It is remarkable that Askin stressed that he is Azeri, not Turk, in despite of his Turkish second name.

It would be better pleasing the Azeris to erect the statue Ramil Safarov instead of the memorial of the “victims” of the so-called “Khojalu massacre”. Safarov, murdering an Armenian serviceman, once again proved the bloodthirsty essence of the Azeri barbarians. The statue of Safarov would signify the entire horde of Azeris, and not only the “Khojalu victims”!

http://ara-ashjian.blogspot.com/2008/02/truth-about-khojalu-events-azeri.html

Azerbaijan: Newly Independent but Mired in Corruption

March 26, 2008

It is a windy, crisp February evening, and a crowd of dignitaries in formal attire is filing into the Khagani Business Center in downtown Baku. United States Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ross Wilson and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Hasanov are scheduled to deliver speeches of thanks to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) for hosting the fundraiser for people forced from their homes by Azerbaijan’s long war with Armenia over the disputed Armenian enclave Nagorno-Karabakh (see map below).


But the war ended with a Russian-mediated ceasefire in 1994. Azeris have had seven years to become inured to the fact that some 1.1 million people, or 13 percent of the country’s population, were forced from their homes over the course of the six-year conflict. So perhaps it is not so strange that the talk among those present in the Khagani Business Center this evening is not so much about refugees, or internally displaced people, as it is about corruption.

Transparency International, an independent watchdog group founded by former World Bank officials, recently listed Azerbaijan as the third most corrupt nation in their annual survey of 90 countries. “Didn’t you hear?” jokes a Swedish United Nations worker as she joins a discussion about the survey results. “Azerbaijan really got the first most corrupt country listing, but the government bribed someone to move them down to number three.”

In Azerbaijan, it seems everyone can tell some story from her daily life about having to bribe a corrupt official. Visitors are warned never to open the door unless they expect company, since the police routinely come knocking to collect bribes. A traffic stop is almost certain to result in an immediate “fine,” and arrests and fines for trivial offences such as being alone in the evening with a member of the opposite sex are common, locals complain.

These countless examples from people’s daily lives can add up to produce a serious macroeconomic effect. According to a World Bank report cited in the leading opposition daily Yeni Musavat last November, 60 percent of the Azeri economy is informal, and thus not subject to scrutiny, accountability, or taxation. Yeni Musavat reported that if the same ratio applies to the government’s finances, then some $1.4 billion would be lost to corruption yearly, based on an official budget of $900 million. The paper warned the government that unless it undertook urgent reforms, Azerbaijan would run the risk of being compared to Nigeria – another oil-rich, notoriously corrupt state, which had the dubious distinction of being named the most corrupt country in the world according to the 2000 Transparency International survey.

Indeed, says World Bank Acting Country Manager Saida Bagirova, Azerbaijan will need an improved structure to manage its oil revenues to avoid “ending up like Nigeria.” But Bagirova is optimistic and notes that an oil fund has been set up by presidential decree. “This will be an account, separate from the regular budget, strictly for oil revenue, with the limit that only dividends from the fund may be tapped during a one-year period,” says Bagirova, who stresses that the World Bank is “very interested to see this fund be transparent.” Currently the World Bank plans to distribute $300 million over a three-year period through the fund. But Bagirova says the amount could be tripled if the public sector shows an interest in implementing the World Bank’s recommended reforms.

Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev has guarded his power jealously since 1993, when he seized power in a bloodless coup. International observers site corrupt voting practices in every post-Aliyev election. Observers from the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations reported widespread abuses in the country’s first legislative elections in 1995. Likewise, the U.S. State Department reported that the 1998 presidential election that returned Aliyev to power were “marred by numerous, serious irregularities … and lack of transparency in the vote counting process.”

Reports from the last November’s parliamentary elections indicate that things may not have improved very much since. Jacob, an Englishman who came to Baku as a businessman and who did not want to give his last name, acted as an official observer for the OSCE last November. On night of the IRC fundraiser in Baku, he recalled his experiences:

“The election officials did everything they could think of to keep us away from the counting tables, They told me to go out to dinner, go for a walk, out for a smoke, and they seated us far away from the actual counting tables and the ballots. But when I asked, or rather demanded, to be close enough to actually see, the other observers gained courage and we all came across the hall to the tables. … The electricity failed twice, but everyone had cigarette lighters, so we held them up and watched as [the officials] pulled ballots from under the tables and switched them with those on the table. Only after that did the chairman start the vote count,”

Jacob estimates that about 400 ballots were swapped that night.

As Rauf Arifoglu, Yeni Musavat‘s editor in chief, has discovered more than once, openly criticizing government corruption can have unpleasant consequences. ” This government does not like independent thinking,” Arifoglu complains, pointing to one incident in which masked assailants severely beat a journalist from the paper shortly after his story on corruption in the Azeri government was published. The incident was not atypical. The U.S. State Department notes that journalists reported 60 cases of harassment and intimidation last year and that on April 29, 2000, police beat 17 journalists covering a local demonstration.

Arifoglu has spent time in prison, himself. Last August, a member of the Musavat opposition party hijacked a plane and demanded that President Aliyev respond to former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s letter requesting that the elections be conducted fairly. Arifgolu conveyed the hijacker’s demands to the chief of national security and was put in jail until October for concealing prior knowledge of the hijacking. The government argues that Arifoglu was party to a criminal publicity stunt. Arifoglu still maintains that he was imprisoned on trumped-up charges to keep him quiet during the period before the election.

As yet, no trial date has been set for Arifoglu, though he still faces up to 20 years in prison. He believes the charges are being kept pending to keep him in check without the need for a high-profile court case. According to the U.S. State Department, he may have reason to suspect as much. “The Azeri judiciary,” it concluded last year, “does not function independently of the executive branch and is corrupt and inefficient.”

But many here say that corruption in the judicial branch pales next to that in the Ministry of Health. “Absolutely, the most corrupt,” says an English director of an NGO that works with Azeri orphans. Irina Stirbu, a maternal-child health program manager with Save the Children in Baku agrees: “Because of the level of corruption [in the Ministry of Health] reforms needed to advance our work from humanitarian assistance to meaningful development can not happen.”

In fact, officials with the United Nations Population Fund, Mercy Corps International, and Pathfinder International, all of whom are involved in funding and advancing health care in the country, say the levels of corruption run so deep that often doctors even prefer to perform abortions on women rather that dole out contraceptives because of the bribe dollars they can collect from an abortion procedure. “Yes, it is true,” says Dr. Elvira Anadolu, country director of Pathfinder International in Azerbaijan. “To make money, doctors may prefer abortions versus issuing oral contraceptives,” she sighs but adds that the situation is improving with increased training efforts from international organizations.

Though it is perfectly willing to make political capital out of corruption in the current administration, the opposition has given little intimation of how they would do things differently if given power. Isa Gambar, head of the leading opposition party Musavat and chairman of the parliament during the time his party was in power from 1992-1993, is adamant about the need for change: “We need to change the laws to discourage bribe taking and decrease the level of dependence the people have come to expect from their government. And if some company is chosen for a government project, we will list all the reasons for our choice to make bids transparent.”

When asked to elaborate on his anti-corruption plans, Gambar replied, “It is hard to explain all our programs,” but insists he has sent a detailed package to the president.

Nara Aliyeva, a young Azeri woman who works for a humanitarian organization in Baku, is unimpressed by Gambar’s pronouncements. “All his words are nice, yes, but why, when they were in power before did they not do these things?” she asks. “In 1992 to 1993, things were horrible – the streets were so unsafe that you would not dare to walk about after dark. Only when our [current] president took power did things settle down. He stopped the war with Armenia and took control of our streets.”

Indeed, in a land where everything can be bought, many here are wondering what, exactly, is the price for peace and freedom?

Margaret Woodbury

Corruption mechanism in Azerbaijan oil industry

March 26, 2008

The basic corruption scheme is possible to explain by this way:

  1. Top managers of big company (in this case SOCAR) found (usually indirectly, through their relatives etc.) their own private enterprises.
  2. SOCAR submits some orders to the subcontractor firms, which are owned by SOCAR managers or by their relatives.
  3. The invoiced price of works is much higher then market price, usually more then two times. Very often no work is carried out (or the real work is in much lesser scope), although “in the papers” everything is OK.
  4. SOCAR pays full contract price to subcontractor, then SOCAR manager (the  real owner of subcontractor or its relative) gets back usually 50% of the sum for himself in cash, the rest of money keeps the subcontractor. As the result,  budget of the State Oil Company and its subdivisions is under systematically larceny.

Report on corruption in Azerbaijan oil industry

Source: http://www.bicusa.org/Legacy/BTC_corruption_claim_COIWRP.pdf

In ‘Azerbaijan’s North Korea,’ Journalist Crackdown Continues

March 26, 2008
Authorities in Azerbaijan’s exclave of Naxcivan are continuing a strict crackdown against opposition journalists in the region.

Police on December 7 interrogated two journalists, one day after another was detained and a fourth, RFE/RL correspondent Ilgar Nasibov, was sentenced on slander charges.

Nasibov was arrested and summarily sentenced to 90 days in prison on December 6 on charges of slandering police officers after he sent an e-mail to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev complaining about police harassment of journalists in Naxcivan.

Nasibov’s wife, Malahat Nasibova, says she cannot find out where he is being incarcerated. His family has received neither a copy of the indictment against him nor the court’s verdict.

Nasibova, who is also an RFE/RL correspondent, was detained and interrogated early on December 7 together with Mohammad Rzayev, a reporter for the opposition newspaper “Azadliq.” Both were released after being questioned for approximately an hour.

A fourth journalist, Elman Abbasov, remains in police custody after police raided his home on the evening of December 6, confiscated his computer, and brought him into detention.

Media watchdogs, human rights groups, and Western governments have harshly criticized Azerbaijan this year for the harassment and imprisonment of opposition journalists. With his sentencing, Nasibov became the 10th journalist currently behind bars in the country.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has called Azerbaijan “the leading jailer of journalists in Europe and Central Asia.” And the Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called Nasibov’s imprisonment “utterly illegal,” adding that “justice demands that he be freed at once.”

‘A Region Without Rights’

RSF’s Marie-Valentine Bourrat says Azerbaijan places near the bottom of the group’s press-freedom rankings, and that Naxchivan is among the most repressive regions in the country.

“Naxcivan is a place where brutality against journalists happens very often,” Bourrat tells RFE/RL. “It is considered a region without rights. There are no rights respected there. The law is not applied. There is no freedom of expression.”

The Naxcivan region is an exclave separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenia. It is run like a personal fiefdom by regional head Vasif Talibov, who is a close relative of President Aliyev.

Azerbaijanis refer to the closed and repressive region, where opposition activists and independent journalists face constant harassment, as “Azerbaijan’s North Korea.”

A series of abuses — some of them bizarre — have been documented in media reports.

According to the reports, local authorities have ordered state employees to perform manual labor on weekends as a condition for keeping their jobs. People who fail to pay utility bills have been seized and tied to trees outside police precincts until a family member or friend can come and settle the debt. Residents are forbidden from hanging laundry from their balconies and from baking bread at home. In a region where average salaries are approximately $130 per month, farmers are charged a steep tax for owning more than one cow or one sheep — $25 per cow, $10 per sheep.

Nasibova tells RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service that local authorities are seeking to silence journalists like her and her husband who have reported on these abuses. She said she expects to be arrested soon.

“I think their main goal is to force us [independent journalists] out of Naxcivan,” Nasibova says. “While they were searching our apartment, the police told us: ‘We will succeed in silencing you. You will have to leave the region.’ I think this process is related to our professional activities here.”

Nasibova says police forcefully entered the apartment she shares with her husband on December 6, frightening the couple’s three children. They confiscated the family’s computer, disks, and files.

Nasibova was briefly detained as she and Rzayev tried to bring a food parcel to Nasibov at the local custody center. They were told Nasibov was being held at the Interior Ministry. But when they went to the Interior Ministry, they were told he was not there either, so they returned to the detention center.

When the two were driving away, a car blocked their path and two men identifying themselves as police officers detained them and took them back to the Interior Ministry for questioning.

Threats From The Police

Nasibov’s arrest stems from an incident on November 4 when he and Nasibova were reporting from a market in Naxcivan that police were attempting to close down. When shoppers and merchants staged a protest, police responded with force.

Nasibov and Nasibova then tried to interview protesters, but police threatened them and tried to confiscate their cameras and recording equipment.

Nasibov later sent a letter to President Aliyev’s website protesting what he called police harassment. This prompted local police chief Sabuhi Novruzov to file criminal slander charges against Nasibov.

When the journalist appeared in court on December 4, he was told the charges had been dropped. Nasibov was summoned to appear in court again on December 6, but was told it was simply to formalize the dismissal of the charges. When he showed up in court without a lawyer, however, he was summarily sentenced to 90 days in prison.

Azerbaijani lawmakers today debated the Nasibov case in parliament.

Isa Habibbayli, a deputy representing Naxcivan, denied that journalists in the region were being targeted.

“There is no repression in Naxcivan against journalists. There is a struggle against those who use their position as journalists to break the law,” Habibbayli said on the floor of parliament. “The correspondent from RFE/RL was arrested not because he was a journalist, but because he interfered with plans to demolish this market and beautify the city, and for interfering with police officers who were trying to establish order.”

But opposition lawmaker Arzu Samedbayli criticized what he called “arbitrary” rule in Naxcivan, saying Nasibov’s arrest fits into a larger pattern of repression.

“We hear a lot about arbitrariness on the part of the authorities, but this is nothing compared to what is happening in Naxcivan,” Samedbayli said. “Tea houses are being destroyed in the region’s villages, despite protests from the people. Other strange things are happening in Naxcivan. The authorities are destroying the ovens people use to bake bread in their homes because they say this harms the environment. They are forcing people to buy bread from shops owned by the state monopoly.”

In the past year, Azerbaijan has witnessed a wave of what critics call politically motivated criminal cases against opposition journalists.

(RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service contributed to this report.)

Source: http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/12/557443d0-d849-4868-b2ce-3234fffa0fa4.html

Azerbaijan: Investigative Journalist Hospitalized After Stabbing

March 26, 2008
A reporter with Azerbaijan’s largest opposition newspaper has been hospitalized after he was attacked and stabbed by two assailants.

The attack is the latest incident appearing to target members of the nonstate media in Azerbaijan, and comes just days after the U.S. State Department’s annual human rights report noted “significant deterioration” in the country’s media freedom environment.

Agil Khalil, a 25-year-old correspondent with the “Azadliq” daily, sustained a deep chest wound after being stabbed with a knife on the evening of March 13. Azer Ahmedov, the newspaper’s technical director, said Khalil had been seriously injured, but was not in danger of dying.

The newspaper claims the attack is tied to Khalil’s work investigating possible corruption in land deals in Baku.

In late February, Khalil was beaten by two men while attempting to photograph the destruction of a public olive grove, which was allegedly being cleared at the behest of a local businessman looking to use the land to build a private villa.

Ahmedov says the correspondent began receiving threats after filing a complaint with local police.

“For the past 10-15 days, Agil had been receiving phone calls from people threatening him or attempting to blackmail him,” Ahmedov told RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service. “He was also being followed. He told us, after he was attacked, that he recognized one of the assailants.”

Sadiq Gezalov, a spokesperson for Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, says a criminal case has been opened into the attack.

‘Heinous Crime’

Anne Derse, the U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, visited Khalil in his hospital room, saying she was “shocked and appalled at this heinous crime.”

“This terrible attack and other violent attacks against journalists have created a climate of fear in an apparent effort to silence critical voices in Azerbaijan,” Derse said.

Azerbaijan, which is fast accumulating regional influence and energy wealth, has seen a steady crackdown on independent media in recent years. Numerous opposition papers have been closed and journalists have been beaten or jailed for incidents they say are related to their work.

Azerbaijani authorities have denied any connection to the attack on Khalil, and allege the case is being used as part of an antigovernment smear campaign.

“The stabbing of a journalist is another provocation against Azerbaijan and was intended to create a myth regarding the problems of freedom of speech and press in the country,” lawmaker Ali Ahmadov, executive secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, told the Trend news agency.

Khalil’s stabbing comes less than a week after “Azadliq” editor Ganimat Zahidov was sentenced by a Baku court to four years in prison for “aggravated hooliganism” and “assault and battery” in connection with an incident in 2007 in which he was accosted by a stranger. (Zahidov’s brother, an “Azadliq” correspondent, is currently serving a three-year jail term on similar charges.)

The press watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) criticized Zahidov’s sentence as “shocking and extremely severe,” adding: “We have every reason to suspect that the incident was contrived from the outset with the sole aim of silencing an opposition journalist.”

RSF said the verdict “says a lot about how authorities plan to approach the presidential election” in October, when incumbent Ilham Aliyev will seek a second term.

Source: http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2008/03/43cebe69-22e1-49e3-a16b-b3e7a8c2fc1e.html

AZERBAIJAN: EDITOR JAILED ON SPURIOUS CHARGES

March 26, 2008

An editor of an opposition daily in Azerbaijan has been sentenced to four years in prison on politically motivated charges, say the Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety (IRFS), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Genimet Zakhidov, editor-in-chief of “Azadlig” (“Freedom”) was charged with hooliganism and inflicting minor bodily harm, and sentenced to four years behind bars in connection with an altercation with a stranger last November.

The verdict, given at a district court in the Azeri capital, Baku on 7 March, took Zakhidov’s lawyers and family by surprise; they were not informed that the judge had reached a decision and no one was present in court on Zakihdov’s behalf.

“The government of Azerbaijan is trying to incapacitate the opposition press and instil fear in journalists before the upcoming presidential elections,” says IRFS.

Police arrested Zakhidov after a man and woman staged a brawl on the street near his Baku office on 7 November 2007. According to Zakhidov, the woman, Sevgilade Guliyeva, began to shout and accuse him of insulting her. The man with her, Vusal Hasanov, then tried to attack him. Zakhidov fought Hasanov off with the help of people nearby. Hasanov and Guliyeva later filed complaints against the journalist.

A few days later, police invited Zakhidov to testify as the victim of an attack; he was instead arrested as a suspect and has been held in preventive custody ever since. Hasanov got an 18-month sentence.

Zakhidov contends the incident was orchestrated by the authorities in retaliation for his writing, in which he has accused the President and other high-ranking officials of corruption.

Zakhidov’s lawyer says witnesses gave contradictory testimonies during the trial and prosecutors failed to provide the court with any incriminating evidence.

In recent years, Azeri authorities have been creative in their usage of criminal law to harness inconvenient voices, says CPJ. They have been moving away from more traditional defamation charges and favouring more serious indictments such as terrorism, incitement of ethnic hatred, and drug possession.

Zakhidov’s younger brother, Sakit, a writer who also works for “Azadlig”, is serving a three-year sentence that he received in October 2006 on an unsubstantiated charge of drug possession. He is allegedly in bad health.

Both journalists as well as “Azadlig” have been the target of numerous attacks and court cases brought on by officials. According to IRFS, between 2006 and 2007, “Azadlig” has been fined more than 200,000 Manats (US$236,500) as a result of several “unjust, prejudiced court verdicts.” The newspaper’s director, Azer Ahmadov, told IRFS, “The government has been trying to silence ‘Azadlig’ for years. Employees of the newspaper have faced beatings, different civil charges and other pressures. (But) neither the newspaper nor its coverage will change.”

IRFS is calling on the international community to help urge Azerbaijan’s government to immediately release Zakhidov, as well as at least three other wrongfully imprisoned journalists. IRFS is also appealing to the European Council for a special rapporteur on political prisoners to be appointed and sent to Azerbaijan to investigate.

Visit these links:
– IRFS: http://www.ifex.org/fr/content/view/full/91479/
– CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/33tgpb
– RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=26066

Human Rights In Azerbaijan

March 26, 2008
U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Anne Derse strongly condemned the stabbing of Azerbaijani journalist Agil Khalil. Mr. Khalil, a reporter with the daily newspaper Azadliq, was assaulted by two unidentified thugs on March 13th. It is the second physical attack he has suffered in a month.

Mr. Khalil was investigating possible land deal corruption in Baku. Ambassador Derse visited Mr. Khalil in his hospital room. She says the violence is intended to intimidate the press in Azerbaijan:

“This terrible attack and other violent attacks against journalists have created a climate of fear.”

The assault on Mr. Khalil comes less than a week after the editor of Azadliq, Ganimat Zahidov, was convicted of so-called “aggravated hooliganism” and sentenced to four years in prison. Reporters Without Borders, a press freedom monitoring group, said it believes the charges against Mr. Zahidov were contrived “with the sole aim of silencing an opposition journalist.” Joel Simon, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists denounced the sentence as a “travesty of justice” and called for the editor’s immediate release.

In its latest human rights report, the U.S. State Department said that the media freedom environment in Azerbaijan “significantly deteriorated” during 2007. The report found that “a number of journalists who criticized government officials in the course of their work were subjected to criminal prosecution and/or civil lawsuits, some resulting in prison sentences and large fines. Journalists were also subject to harassment, threats, and acts of physical violence that appeared to be connected to their criticism of the government or specific public officials.”

The report also noted other human rights abuses by Azerbaijan authorities, including torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, “particularly of individuals considered by the government to be political opponents,” harsh prison conditions, and restrictions on freedom of assembly, association, and religion.

U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Jonathan Farrar said “for civil society and an independent media, the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly are oxygen.” A free press cannot operate where journalists work in fear.

Source: http://www.voanews.com/uspolicy/2008-03-20-voa1.cfm

MASS ARRESTS OF AZERBAIJAN’S LEZGINS

March 26, 2008

According to the information DE FACTO received from reliable sources, the Azerbaijani police conducts a large-scale operation in the Republic Kusar and Khachmaz regions inhabited by Lezgins.

Mass arrests of activists of the Lezgin National Movement, Sadval, are made under the pretence of illegal weapons’ elimination. The persons, who do not have registration in these regions, are also arrested. All approaches and roads to these regions have been blocked by police posts, intensified forces of internal troops and riot police.
The large-scale operation started early in the morning, March 25, our source reports. According to 4 p.m., over 100 people have been arrested. None of them has been brought arrest warrants so far. Since no prisoners have been released, the source found difficulty in informing what accusations have been brought against them. The source also states that actually all dibirs, Lezgin clergymen, have been arrested as well. There are women among the prisoners. The situation in the region becomes hourly heated. According to non-verified information, the subdivisions of regular troops of Azerbaijani Armed Forces also head for the mass repressions’ region.
Source: IAA DE FACTO