Human rights defender sentenced to prison
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Elchin Mammad is the president of the Social Union of Legal Education of Sumgait Youth, an NGO providing free legal assistance to families on low income.He is also the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Yukselish Namine. In 2014 the authorities launched criminal investigation targeting several NGOs, including Social Union of Legal Education of Sumgait Youth. Elchin Mammad was summoned and questioned several times by Sumgait police and placed under travel restrictions in connection with the investigation. In 2015 he was detained for 12 hours and released without charges, after he had taken part in the session of the Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe (PACE).
In 2013, the government of Azerbaijan started a widespread crackdown on civil society, arresting prominent government critics, including human rights defenders and political activists, on fabricated charges, mostly of financial irregularities. Spurious charges of economic crimes and “abuse of authority” are commonly used in Azerbaijan to incarcerate leaders of independent NGOs and other critics of the authorities. Amnesty International has documented arbitrary application of criminal law in recent years in relation to some of the government’s most prominent critics including human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers. The authorities have recently stepped up crackdown on critics again using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse.