Azerbaijan: Extension of pre-trial detention of Ms. Leyla Yunus until July 28, 2015

18/02/2015
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Leyla Yunus, Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) and a member of OMCT General Assembly.

New information
AZE 002 / 0414 / OBS 031.5
Judicial harassment / Deterioration of health while in detention
Azerbaijan
February 18, 2015

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The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Azerbaijan.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Leyla Yunus, Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) and a member of OMCT General Assembly.

According to the information received, ton February 18, 2015, the Pre-Trial Court decided to extend the pre-trial detention of Ms. Yunus until July 28, 2015. By the end of this period, Ms. Leyla Yunus will have remained in prison without trial for almost a year, despite her medical condition.

The Observatory recalls that Ms. Leyla Yunus is suffering from a medical condition known as hepatomegaly - a liver enlargement and deterioration. Ms. Yunus, who was previously denied access to medication by the prison authorities, has lost 16 kilograms since her arrest. She also suffers from severe diabetes and is being denied special parcels of food [1].

The Observatory has also been informed that the Pre-Trial Court will be deciding in coming days about the extension of the pre-trial detention of Mr. Arif Yunusov, husband of Ms. Yunus and Head of the Conflictology Department of IPD.

The Observatory has repeatedly expressed serious concerns regarding the judicial harassment against both Ms. Leyla Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov, who is also facing poor health conditions. Currently, Mr. Yunusov is on drugs against insomnia, and suffers from high blood pressure.

The Observatory calls upon the authorities in Azerbaijan to ensure Ms. Leyla Yunus’ and Mr. Arif Yusunov’s physical and psychological integrity by providing adequate medical care, as well as to release them in bail immediately for humanitarian reasons as a first step for an unconditional release as their detention seems to only aim at sanctioning their activities amidst a wave of increasing repression against civil society organisations and representatives in Azerbaijan.

Background information:

On April 28, 2014, Ms. Leyla Yunus was reportedly invited as a witness on the criminal case no. 142006022 of journalist Rauf Mirqadirov to the Investigation Department of Serious Crimes of the Office of Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan. That evening, however, Ms. Yunus and Mr. Yunusov were detained at the Baku Heydar Aliyev airport as they were trying to fly to Paris via Doha. The authorities seized their luggages, conducted a search without presenting them any court order, confiscated their passports and seized a laptop, a video camera, USB flash drives and paper records, while denying Ms. Yunus and Mr. Yunusov the right to see their lawyer. An attempted search of the Yunus apartment later that night resulted in the hospitalisation of Mr. Yunusov for a pre-stroke condition.

The following morning, April 29, 2014, after being kept awake the whole night and denied access to toilets, Ms. Yunus was taken to the Investigation Department of Serious Crimes of the General Prosecutor’s Office and interrogated for nine hours, including about joint projects of the IPD and Armenian NGO (public dialogues) as well as on her relations with journalist Rauf Mirqadirov. Later that night, police searched the office of the IPD as well as the Yunus’ private residence, confiscating several computers, books, and print materials.

On July 30, 2014, the Prosecutor’s office employees arrested Ms. Leyla Yunus. She was charged with “treason” (Article 274 of the Criminal Code), “large-scale fraud” (Article (178.3.2), “forgery” (Article 320), “tax evasion” (Article 213), and “illegal business” (Article 192), and sentenced to three months pre-trial detention. In October 23, 2014 Ms. Yunus pre-trial detention was extended till February 28, 2014. Mr. Arif Yunusov faced similar charges of “treason” and “fraud”, and was initially barred from traveling and was put under police surveillance but not jailed for health reasons. However, on August 5, 2014, the court eventually decided to arrest him too, and to place him in pre-trial detention for three months. In October his pre-trial detention was extended until March 5, 2015.

On October 18, 2014, Ms. Leyla Yunus was transferred to the Investigate Prison of the Ministry of National Security, where she was kept for several days, before being transferred back to Kurdakhany prison.

Ms. Leyla Yunus was later deprived of her lawyer, Mr. Javad Javadov, following his active criticism of the judicial process against Leyla Yunus at an hearing on October 24, 2014. A few days later, her second lawyer, Mr. Khalid Bagirov, was also removed from the case. Moreover, her third lawyer, Mr. Alaif Hasanov, has been subjected to a lawsuit by Ms. Nuriya Huseynova - cellmate of Leyla Yunus – who accused him of passing information to mass media. Mr. Alaif Hasanov was the first one to speak about the condition and physical pressure against Ms. Leyla Yunus by her cell-mate.

Three months before her arrest, Ms. Leyla Yunus actively campaigned for the release of political prisoners and against the organisation of European Games in Baku. A few days before her arrest, Ms. Leyla Yunus referred an open letter titled "Authoritarian countries are not for Olympic Games" to the European Olympic Committee. On the eve of her arrest, on July 29, 2014, she wrote a letter to the President of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, criticising the arrest of many critics of his regime and of human rights defenders.

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities in Azerbaijan, urging them to:

ι. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Leyla Yunus, Mr. Arif Yunusov and all the human rights defenders in Azerbaijan;

ιι. Provide Ms. Leyla Yunus with immediate and appropriate medical care;

ιιι. Put an end to any kind of ill-treatment against Ms. Leyla Yunus;

iv. Immediately release Ms. Leyla Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov from pre-trial detention on humanitarian grounds as a first step to their unconditional release as well as the immediate and unconditional release of all other arbitrarily arrested human rights defenders, since their detentions are arbitrary and only aim at sanctioning their human rights activities;

v. Put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial and investigatory levels - against Ms. Leyla Yunus, Mr. Arif Yunusov, and more generally against all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan;

vi. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:

- Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;
- Article 5, which underscores the right of every individual to form, join, and participate in non-governmental organizations; and
- Article 12.2, which provides that the State shall “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights”;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Azerbaijan.

Addresses:

• Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Office of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 19 Istiqlaliyyat St., Baku AZ1066, Azerbaijan, Fax: (+994) 12 492 06 25, (+994) 412 92 28 68, E-mail: office@pa.gov.az, office@apparat.gov.az
• Mr. Zakir Garalov, Prosecutor General of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Prosecutor’s Office, 7 Nigar Rafibeyli St., Baku, Azerbaijan, Fax: (+994) 12 492 06 82, (+994) 12 492 26 63, E-mail: z.qaralov@prosecutor.gov.az, info@prosecutor.gov.az
• Mr. Eldar Mahmudov, Minister of National Security, Ministry of National Security of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Parliament Avenue 14, Baku AZ1006, Azerbaijan, Fax: (+994) 12 493-76-22, E-mail: cpr@mns.gov.az
• Mr. Ramil Usubov, Minister of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Azerbaijani Republic, Fax: (+994) 12 492 45 90
• Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, E-mail: katiblik@mfa.gov.az
• Mr. Fikrat F. Mammadov, Minister of Justice in Azerbaijan, Inshaatchilar Prospekti, 1 Baku, Azerbaijan, e-mail: contact@justice.gov.az; Fax (+994) 12 430 09 81
• H.E. Mr. Murad N. Najafbayli, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the United Nations in Geneva, Route des Fayards 237, CH-1290 Versoix, Switzerland, Fax: (+41) 22 901 18 44, E-mail: geneva@mission.mfa.gov.az
• Embassy of Azerbaijan in Brussels, Avenue Moliere 464, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: (+32) 2 345 91 85

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Azerbaijan in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Azerbaijan.

***

Geneva-Paris, February 18, 2014

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

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