'Amnesty International is a symbol of human rights and freedom.'
Jabbar Savalan on his release from prison in December 2011
On 26 December 2011, having spent nearly a year behind bars, youth activist Jabbar Savalan was released by presidential pardon. Thousands of you took part in our international campaign for his freedom.
In February 2011 Jabbar Savalan, a history student and member of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party’s youth wing,posted a message on Facebook calling for peaceful protests against the government. The next day he was arrested.
Jabbar was charged with possessing drugs. He was convicted largely on the basis of a confession extracted under duress, and despite a blood test showing he had not used drugs. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
After we led an international campaign calling for his release Jabbar received a presidential pardon and was finally freed on 26 December 2011.
He was not cleared of the charges against him but Jabbar told us that he would not be scared off by punishment, and that he would continue to speak out.
In fact, since his release Jabbar has publicly criticised the Azerbaijani government in media interviews and taken part in peaceful protests.
Paying the price
His criticism has not gone unnoticed, and Jabbar continues to be targeted for his peaceful activism.
When he attended a protest on 7 March 2012 the police beat him. Now, he has been conscripted into military service even though as a student he should be exempt.
Human rights crackdown
Jabbar is not alone. His experience is just one example of what happens to the men and women who choose to speak out against the government in Azerbaijan because they refuse to accept being unable to exercise even their most basic rights.
We are very concerned by what is happening in the country - the crackdown on rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly is intensifying.