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Amnesty International called on Azerbaijani authorities to immediately release the two opposition leaders

Azerbaijan should immediately and unconditionally release two political leaders who have been behind bars for more than a year on fabricated charges, Amnesty International said. The statement can be found on the site of the organization.

Amnesty International notes that on 17 March, the Shaki District Court is expected to announce the verdict against Tofig Yagublu and Ilgar Mammadov – two prisoners of conscience who were arrested more than a year ago after they observed riots in the northern city of Ismayili.

"The authorities in Azerbaijan seem to stop at nothing to crush dissent. All Tofig and Ilgar did was visit Ismayili to observe and report on these events. They are being punished simply as critics of the government,” said Denis Krivosheev, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

Amnesty International notes that Tofig Yagublu is an independent Azeri journalist and the deputy chair of the opposition Musavat party and Ilgar Mammadov is leader of the Azeri opposition group REAL. If convicted, Tofig Yagublu and Ilgar Mammadov face up to 12 years in prison.

"Those in power show an absolute disregard for any dissenting voices in Azerbaijan. Tofig Yagublu and Ilgar Mammadov should be released immediately and all trumped up charges should be dropped,” said Denis Krivosheev.

As the organization reports there are at least 17 prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan, imprisoned solely in connection with their attempts to peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression.

Unrests in Ismailli district began at the evening of January 23, after an accident in which the nephew of the head of Nizami Alekperov and son of the Minister of Labor Fizuli Alekperov - Vugar Alekperov - were involved. His car crashed into another car, Alekperov then began to insult the local residents. According to one of Ismayilli residents, relative of the minister took a pack of money out of his pocket and said: "You have no dignity (geyret), I can buy your mothers and sisters for this money."
Information about the insults spread through the district and angry residents began to smash the commercial entities of Alekperov’s family up. Internal troops and Special Forces were involved in the incident. They fired rubber bullets and tear gas. As a result of clashes many people were arrested and dozens injured.

Ismayilli region is located in the north of Azerbaijan and is bordered by Guba region, where in March 2012 the population rioted against lawlessness of Azerbaijani officials. Ismayilli region just like Guba, is also included in the historical area of indigenous nations of Azerbaijan.



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