AZERBAIJAN: Health concern for imprisoned writer Rashad Ramazanov
PEN is deeply concerned for the health of writer and blogger Rashad Ramazanov, who is serving a nine-year sentence for his anti-government writings. His family, who recently visited him in prison, said that he lost weight after being punished with 15 days in solitary confinement and that he is not receiving the adequate medical treatment he requires. Rashad Ramazanov suffers from a number of health problems as a result of his imprisonment, most serious being tuberculosis, which he contracted when he was arbitrarily detained in 2005. PEN believes that the charges against Rashad Ramazanov are politically motivated and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
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Please send appeals to the Azeri authorities via your embassy:
- Protesting Rashad Ramazanov’s detention on politically motivated charges, and calling on the Azerbaijani authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally, and to overturn his conviction and sentence;
- Expressing serious concern for his health and well-being and ensuring that, pending his release, he is provided with adequate medical care;
- Calling on Azerbaijan to cease its campaign of intimidation directed at opposition or critical voices and to comply with its obligations under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which Azerbaijan is a state party) to protect the right to freedom of expression.
Please send your letters via the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in your country. Addresses may be found here.
***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after 15 March 2017. ***
Please send messages of support to Rashad Ramazanov in prison at the following address:
Mr. Rashad Ramazanov
Address 2 sayli Cezachekme Muessisesi
AZ 1045, Baku, Khazar rayonu, Bina qesebesi
Note to PEN Centers: Please keep us informed of any action you take in regards to Ramazanov’s case, including any responses you receive.
Writer and blogger Rashad Ramazanov (pen-name Rashad Heqiqet Agaaddin) was arrested on 9 May 2013 and sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of ‘illegal possession and sale of drugs’ (Article 234.4.3 of the Criminal Code). Rashad Ramazanov is well-known for his anti-government postings, and PEN considers the charges against him to be politically motivated. There is a clear pattern of the Azerbaijani authorities using charges of drugs or firearms possession, ‘hooliganism,’ or tax evasion to arrest and imprison writers and journalists who criticize the authorities.
Rashad Ramazanov was arrested near the ‘20 January’ metro station by officers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and taken to the Department for Combating Organised Crime. The police claim to have found nine grams of heroin on his person, although he says it was planted by officers during his arrest, when he was also beaten up. Rashad Ramazanov also reports being tortured during interrogation. On 7 August 2013, his case was referred to the Baku Court of Grave Crimes and he was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison on 13 November 2013. On 14 May 2014, Ramazanov’s appeal against his conviction was dismissed.
Rashad Ramazanov was punished with 15 days in solitary confinement that began on Monday 23 January 2017. His family and lawyer tried to see him but were denied permission. The reason for this punishment remains unknown. On 7 February 2017, Rashad Ramazanov’s family was informed that he had been released for solidarity confinement and was subsequently allowed to visit him.
Rashad Ramazanov, aged thirty-five, graduated in 2004 from Baku State University with a Masters degree in ecology before going on to study for a PhD in Philosophy, Sociology, and Law from the Institute of National Sciences Academy of Azerbaijan. He is the author of seven books and many articles. His academic articles have been published by the National Sciences Academy of Azerbaijan and other institutes. He has also been an active and outspoken political commentator on social media, and has published articles critical of the government on his Facebook page under the pen-name of Rashad Heqiqet Agaaddin (http://on.fb.me/12G0WJE). He reports receiving many warnings and threats from the authorities for his critical online writings, and has also received death threats from radical Islamist extremists in Baku for his liberal views. As a result of these threats he fled to Turkey in 2009 with his wife and one-year–old daughter. They returned to Azerbaijan a year later, but the threats resumed and he lived apart from his family until 2012 in order to protect them. His wife was heavily pregnant with their second child at the time of his 2013 arrest, and his son was born on 30 May 2013, 21 days after his arrest. His wife reports living under heavy surveillance, and the stress is having an impact on her health.
Rashad Ramazanov is an honorary member of PEN Canada.
PEN’s work on Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is undergoing an unprecedented crackdown on civil society. The challenges faced by opposition voices or critical journalists are severe and frequent, and include death threats, surveillance, judicial harassment, and violence. Despite the much-lauded release of political prisoners in March 2016, the persecution of critical voices in Azerbaijan has accelerated in recent months. Currently, dozens of journalists and activists are behind bars for exercising their right to free expression in Azerbaijan. These issues, including the case of Rashad Ramazanov, were highlighted in PEN’s 2016 World Press Freedom Day campaign.
In August 2016 PEN joined the Sports For Rights Coalition in a campaign calling for greater respect of human rights and freedom of expression in Azerbaijan and the immediate and unconditional release of political prisoners, including writers and journalists.