Azerbaijani authorities continue their crackdown on journalists and peace activist
On November 17 The Baku Court for Grave Crimes has sentenced journalist Polad Aslanov to 16 years in prison. Meanwhile, anti-war activist Latif Mammadov claimed Azerbaijani security services threatened to kill him and his family over his online activities.
Aslanov, the editor-in-chief of two Azerbaijani editions, was detained on suspicion of espionage back in June 2019. According to State Security Service (SSS) Aslanov „held secret meetings with employees of foreign special services outside Azerbaijan.“ The journalist is suspected of having agreed to disseminate articles in the media and social networks aimed against the Azerbaijani authorities.
Following the verdict, „Polad said that he was being punished for revealing extortions of travel agencies that organised pilgrimages to Shiite shrines in Karbala (Iraq) and Mashhad (Iran). Agents of special services extorted from bosses of travel agencies 10-20 USD for each pilgrim. Polad said that he was ordered to delete these records, but he refused, and then a criminal case was fabricated against him,“ his wife, Gyulmira Aslanova, has stated.
The coordinator of the Centre against Repressions and Torture, Namizad Safarov told the Caucasian Knot news portal that Azerbaijani authorities are often accusing journalists, including of espionage for Iran, but such charges look implausible. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has condemned the verdict as well.
Just a couple of days earlier an anti-war activist Latif Mammadov, 24, told OC Media he was physically abused and threatened while being interrogated on November 14. „One of them asked me a question and when he didn’t like my answer he grabbed me by the collar and just started shaking me vigorously, I pushed him on his shoulder so he let me go, but then his colleague got up, and they pushed me down on the chair“, Mammadov said. Officers also told him that they would „kill him and his parents if he does not stop“ his online activity.
During interrogation, he was advised not to read international media, as they are „biased and against Azerbaijan“, stating it is not a democracy. „You can’t be a socialist, anarchist, even a liberal because we did not give you these rights“, said one of the officers later on.
As OC Media reminds, the State Security Office of Azerbaijan has received numerous public complaints online in regards to social media posts containing anti-war sentiments and opinions criticising the government. They have previously questioned at least five other activists for making anti-war statements.