New Charges Against Prominent Azerbaijani Blogger Dropped
Azerbaijani blogger Mehman Huseynov has been the focal point of protests for the last three weeks of January demanding the release of notable political prisoners. The 26-year-old is currently serving a two-year prison sentence set to end in March 2019, but authorities recently said he would face new charges that could extend his prison term. Azerbaijani authorities then backed off these charges on January 22.
Huseynov’s current sentence comes after being convicted of libel in 2017 after he alleged that he had been mistreated by the police while in custody. In December 2018, he was accused of “resisting a representative of the authorities with the use of violence dangerous to [the representative’s] health and life.” However, large protests in Azerbaijan, pressure from human rights organizations, and a European Parliament resolution contributed to the government’s withdrawal of the new charges. The Washington Post Editorial Board also called for his release.
The European Parliament (EP) not only called on Azerbaijan’s government to drop new charges against Huseynov, but also to release him from jail immediately and unconditionally. The EP also called on Azerbaijan to guarantee all freedoms of media and expression.
Huseynov, along with several other political prisoners, have also taken up hunger strikes while jailed. The Working Group for a Unified List of Political Prisoners, a non-government watchdog, claims that the Azerbaijani government holds 128 political prisoners under President Ilham Aliyev’s administration.
Huseynov’s initial jailing appears explicitly politically motivated. Weeks prior to his arrest, he created a video where he filmed the luxurious properties of several administration officials. He went on to openly criticize Aliyev’s decision to appoint his wife as vice president.
In a February 27 video clip, Huseynov asks a man, “Imagine if you are a president or a company director. Would you make your wife a deputy director?” The interviewee responds with an adamant no.