Her appeal for parole has been denied to an Azerbaijani journalist who rights groups believe has been imprisoned on false charges.
Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the appeal of human rights defender and journalist Elchin Mammad to be freed after serving a third sentence.
Mammad, the editor of the news website Yukselish Namin and the head of the non-governmental organization Legal Education of Sumgayit Youth, was arrested in the city of Sumgayit in 2020.
Police said at the time that they found stolen jewelry in his office. In October 2020, a court convicted Mammad of theft and illegal possession of weapons and sentenced him to four years in prison.
Mammad denies the allegations, and journalists and human rights defenders say they believe his imprisonment is arbitrary.
Allegations ‘doesn’t seem credible’
Farid Gahramanov, who works for the independent Turan news agency, told VOA that he believed the case against Mamad was political.
“As a journalist and social activist, Elchin Mamad was engaged in defending human rights and freedom of expression. We can say that he was arrested precisely for this reason, because the allegations against him do not seem credible and have not been proved in court,” he told VOA.
Mammad’s website publishes material on human rights, freedom of speech and access to information. And his NGO provides legal aid to low-income families.
Amnesty International reported at the time that the journalist’s arrest came days after publishing a report on human rights abuses in Azerbaijan.
According to Amnesty, the journalist said he believed the police had kept the stolen goods in his office when the search was conducted in his absence.
Mushfiq Alsgarli, deputy chairman of Azerbaijan’s press council, denied that Mamad’s arrest was related to journalistic activities.
The self-regulatory Press Council states on its website that it oversees media compliance with legal and business requirements and works to strengthen relations between the state, the public and the press.
“Even though some people are imprisoned when it is believed that it is in connection with their business, this is not the case with Elchin Mamad. The charges against him directly stem from illegal possession and theft of weapons. are related,” Alsgarli told VOA.
problem for the country
Alasgarli said, however, that he believes that detaining such people “creates problems not only for Elchin Mamad, but also for the whole of Azerbaijan. International organizations report these cases. These facts” used against Azerbaijan.”
The Deputy Chairman said that in some cases releasing such prisoners may be more effective.
The Azerbaijan Supreme Court did not respond to multiple calls from the VOA requesting comment.
Under Azerbaijan’s penal code, parole can be offered to those who have served prison terms, provided they comply with prison rules, Fuad Fuad, coordinator of the Center for the Protection of Political Prisoners and Victims of Torture Ahmadali told VOA.
In October 2021, a district court rejected Mamad’s request to be released for parole, arguing that the journalist had not violated any of the prison rules, making him not guilty of the charges leveled against him. was ordained.
The Baku Court of Appeals upheld that decision in December 2021.
An affidavit submitted to the court from the penal colony said that he “does not show integrity in adhering to relevant norms of behaviour, ethical rules, communication with staff and other prisoners.”
Mammad’s lawyer Fariz Namazli told the VOA that the journalist had followed the prison rules and that no disciplinary action had been taken against him.
“In addition, his mother is 68 years old and seriously ill. Two young children of the human rights defender have been left without their father’s care,” Namali said.
Rights activist Ahmedali said, “Elchin Mammad’s detention and denial by the district, appeals and supreme courts is absurd.”
He told the VOA that it is illegal for the court to jail someone for “absurd views such as his negative attitude towards labor, being introverted and not keeping his bed clean”.
Mammad himself told the court that the penal colony’s affidavit “does not reflect the reality.”
The journalist said he believed it was set to satisfy the wishes of those who ordered his arrest and that they want to keep him in prison for as long as possible.
Turan journalist Gahramanov said cases like Mammad hurt the already restricted media environment in the country. Azerbaijan has a poor press freedom record, ranking 154th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index, with 1 being the best.
“Such severe punishment to journalists has a negative impact on the freedom of expression in the country and serves to create self-censorship among journalists,” Gahramanov said.
Amnesty International and other international organizations have condemned Mamed’s sentence. Local human rights defenders recognize him as a political prisoner.
This story originated in VOA’s Azerbaijani service.
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