Azerbaijan: authorities must release jailed opposition leader Ilgar Mammadov

Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev giving a speech to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg last year © FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Image
‘Keeping an innocent man in prison is an ultimate act of disrespect for fundamental human rights’ - Denis Krivosheev
The government of Azerbaijan must comply with international demands and immediately set free prominent opposition leader, Ilgar Mammadov, after the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe made a second call yesterday demanding his release, said Amnesty International. 
Mammadov was sentenced to seven years in jail on trumped-up, politically-motivated charges more than a year ago.
The Azerbaijani authorities have ignored several requests for Mammadov’s release by the Council of Europe following a European Court of Human Rights ruling that he had been arrested without any evidence and that the actual purpose of his detention had been to silence or punish him for criticising the government.
Mammadov was arrested on 4 February 2013 on charges of inciting mass violence after he travelled to report on street riots which had broken out in northwest Azerbaijan the previous day. He was sentenced to seven years in prison by Sheki Court in Baku in March 2014. Two months later the European Court of Human Rights ruled that his arrest contravened the European Convention on Human Rights. This judgment became final on 13 October when the Strasbourg court rejected an appeal from the government of Azerbaijan. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe demanded his release “without delay” on 4 December 2014, yet this request was ignored. 
Mammadov’s lawyer recently told Amnesty that his client is facing constant pressure from prison officials to sign a confession requesting a pardon from President Ilham Aliyev in exchange for his release. He has refused as this would amount to him recognising his “guilt”. The lawyer added that Mammadov’s health is deteriorating because he is being held in a crowded, smoke-filled cell along with 20 other inmates. 
Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director Denis Krivosheev said:
“President Ilham Aliyev had the audacity to stand before the Council of Europe last year and declare that freedom of expression, association and assembly are assured in Azerbaijan. 
“These have proven to be empty words as his government has continued to openly defy the European Court of Human Rights by refusing to release Ilgar Mammadov.
“Keeping an innocent man in prison is an ultimate act of disrespect for fundamental human rights. Ilgar Mammadov is behind bars for lawfully exercising his right to freedom of expression and must urgently be released.”
Ilgar Mammadov is one of at least 22 prisoners of conscience jailed in Azerbaijan on politically-motivated charges whose cases feature in Amnesty’s recent report Guilty of Defending Rights: Azerbaijan’s human rights defenders and activists behind bars.

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