PEN International is alarmed by the continuing harsh treatment of journalists and activists in Azerbaijan as illustrated by the recent arrest of the youth activist and blogger Zaur Gurbanli, who was seized at his apartment by police on September 29, 2012, and is now serving a 15-day administrative sentence. It is clear that he has been arrested solely for his criticism of the authorities. There are fears that his arrest could lead to further charges and a longer sentence. PEN considers Zaur Gurbanli to be detained in violation of his right to freedom of expression and calls for his immediate release.

Background Information

The following is an Urgent Action Alert on Gurbanli’s arrest issued by Amnesty International today, October 2, 2012. PEN members are urged to write to the Azeri authorities following the guidelines provided.
 
On 29 September, opposition youth activist Zaur Gurbanli was detained in Baku, Azerbaijan by authorities from Azerbaijan’s Anti-Organized Crimes Unit.  He was given 15 days in prison following a closed trial on the day of his arrest.

On 29 September, opposition youth activist Zaur Gurbanli, 25, was detained outside his apartment in Baku by plain-clothed officers from Azerbaijan’s Anti-Organized Crimes Unit. During a hasty telephone call to a friend the same day, Zaur Gurbanli said the men seized him apparently without explanation, saying they were taking him to the Yasamal District police station. When his lawyer visited the station, police denied he was there.

Officers also seized Zaur Gurbanli’s laptop and took Nida (a youth organisation campaigning for human rights and democracy) materials from his room. They also took a number of Nida leaflets and posters from the office of another NGO Zaur Gurbanli is involved in – Positive Change. The staff at Positive Change were forced to give their names, have their photographs taken, and to hand over their membership lists. Officers of the Anti-Organized Crimes Unit brought Zaur Gurbanli to the office without handcuffs or restraints, making their claim that he resisted arrest highly dubious.

Zaur Gurbanli was held incommunicado until 1 October, when his lawyer was granted access. He discovered that Zaur Gurbanli had been handed 15 days in prison on Article 310.1 on the administrative charge of resisting arrest. A statement released by the Ministry of Interior claimed that Zaur Gurbanli was being investigated for his possession of “illegal materials”. Azerbaijani authorities frequently falsely charge opposition activists with resisting arrest while they build a case against them.

Zaur Gurbanli is the chair of Nida and was involved in the Sing for Democracy campaign that persuaded the 2012 Eurovision winner Loreen to condemn rights abuses in Azerbaijan. A regular blogger, he recently posted an article criticizing government corruption and and discrimination, in which he ridiculed the inclusion of a poem by the President’s daughter as mandatory reading in the country’s school curriculum.

It is believed that he is being targeted because of his criticism of the government of Azerbaijan and for the peaceful expression of his ideas.

Write A Letter

  • Calling on authorities to drop all charges against Zaur Gurbanli related to his peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression as a political blogger and activist.

Send Your Letter To

Chief of the Anti-Organized Crimes Unit
Mirgafar Seyidov        
Anti-Organized Crimes Unit
7 Demirchizade Street
Baku, AZ1072, AZERBAIJAN 
Fax: +994 12 590 9699
Salutation: Dear Mr. Seyidov

President        
Ilham Aliyev    
Office of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic
18 Istiqlaliyyat Street 
Baku AZ1066, AZERBAIJAN  
Fax: +994 12 492 0625
Email: office@pa.gov.az
Salutation: Dear President

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Azerbaijan in your country if possible.

Please contact PEN if sending appeals after November 13, 2012: ftw [at] pen.org