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Azerbaijan: PACE rapporteurs express concern at sentence for opposition politician

Baku / Azerbaijan

Three PACE rapporteurs have urged the Azerbaijan authorities to review the case of opposition politician Tofig Yagublu, who has just been sentenced to four years and three months in prison on charges of “hooliganism”.

Mr Yagublu, one of Azerbaijan’s leading opposition politicians and a member of the National Council of Democratic Forces and of the Musavat Party, was sentenced by the Nizami District Court on 3 September 2020.

“We are deeply concerned by Mr Yagublu’s lawyers’ accusations that the trial was unfair, closed to the public and that all the defence motions were rejected,” said PACE’s monitoring co-rapporteurs for Azerbaijan, Sir Roger Gale (United Kingdom, EC/DA) and Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), together with the Assembly’s rapporteur on reported cases of political prisoners in Azerbaijan Sunna AEvarsdottir (Iceland, SOC). “We are particularly alarmed by the severity of the sentence and Mr Yagublu’s decision to start a hunger strike,” they added.

The three rapporteurs had already expressed their concern when Mr Yagublu was arrested on 22 March 2020 on charges of causing a car accident and bodily harm against a family couple. “Mr Yagublu considers himself a victim of provocation, claiming that another car drove into his car when it was parked, and that the couple assaulted him. Regrettably, fabricated charges of ‘hooliganism’ have been used on several occasions in the past by the Azeri authorities to silence political opposition,” they concluded.