Azerbaijan: Student sentenced to ten years for political graffiti
“This outrageously long sentence following already prolonged, unnecessary and arbitrary detention is a blow to all peaceful activists in Azerbaijan” - Denis Krivosheev
A ten-year jail sentence handed by the Baku Court of Grave Crimes in Azerbaijan to a youth activist for spraying graffiti on a statue of the former president of Azerbaijan is a shameless attempt by the Azerbaijani authorities to crush dissent out of existence, Amnesty International said today.
Bayram Mammadov had been detained since his arrest in May after he posted a posted a photo on Facebook of graffiti he and fellow activist Giyas Ibrahimov had painted on a statue of ex-president Heydar Aliyev, the father of the current president Ilham Aliyev. Giyas Ibrahimov was sentenced to ten years in jail on 25 October by the Baku Grave Crimes Court on drugs-related charges.
Police claim they discovered around eight grams of heroin in the students' possession, but Mammadov and Ibrahimov say this was planted, and that during questioning they were only asked questions about the graffiti. Police officers repeatedly demanded that the activists publicly apologise for insulting Heydar Aliyev and subjected them to severe beatings when they refused. Their lawyer said that they were covered with bruises after being interrogated and threatened with rape. They were also reportedly forced to clean the police station’s toilets while being filmed as a form of humiliation.
Giyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov are members of NIDA, a pro-democracy youth movement. The graffiti for which they were arrested read “Happy Slave Day”, a play on the slogan “Happy Flower Day” which is celebrated on 10 May, the former president’s birthday. On the other side of the statue the activists used obscene language in messages of political protest.
Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, said:
“Bayram Mammadov was arrested for painting a slogan on a statue, and was later tortured into ‘confessing’ to serious drug crimes. The charges against him were clearly fabricated with the sole purpose of punishing him for his activism. This outrageously long sentence following already prolonged, unnecessary and arbitrary detention is a blow to all peaceful activists in Azerbaijan.
“The Azerbaijani authorities continue to show utter contempt to freedom of expression, and seem so determined to silence every last critic that they are willing to trample on the truth. They must also carry out an independent investigation into the torture and other ill-treatment he was subjected to.”
Repression of civil society and political dissent is widespread in Azerbaijan, with human rights organisations frequently harassed and persecuted. All mainstream media is under government control. Independent outlets face harassment and closure and independent journalists are often intimidated, harassed, threatened and attacked.
Bayram Mammadov and Giyas Ibrahimov feature in Amnesty International’s 2016 Write for Rights campaign. Join thousands of people around the world to call on President Ilham Aliyev to release Bayram Mammadov and Giyas Ibrahimov immediately and unconditionally www.amnesty.org.uk/azerbaijan