US State Department Condemns Azerbaijan for Sentencing Human Rights Lawyer
The US State Department has put out a statement condemning the imprisonment of human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev and calling for his release and all others jailed for "exercising their fundamental freedoms".
Earlier this week a Baku court sentenced Intigam Aliyev, no relation to President Ilham Aliyev, to 7 1/2 years in prison on charges of illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion and abuse of power. In his final testimony, Aliyev called the charges "politically motivated" due to the nature of his work.
Aliyev is a well-known human rights lawyer and government critic who has brought hundreds of cases before the European Court of Human Rights. Upon his arrest last August, Aliyev commented: "Those who defend human rights and political prisoners and report on election fraud are considered criminals in this country. [So] I am one of those criminals."
The press statement from the US Department of state calls the charges "questionable", and calls on Azerbaijan to release Aliyev and all others "incarcerated in connection with exercising their fundamental freedoms".
Amnesty International's Denis Krivosheev claims that this sentence is related to the upcoming European Games in Baku: "Intigam Aliyev is the latest victim of a concerted campaign by authorities in Azerbaijan to sweep all of the country’s problems under the carpet as they prepare to host the largest European sports event in less than two months."
Amnesty International says there are at least 20 "prisoners of conscience" in Azerbaijan. Before her arrest last December, OCCRP partner journalist Khadija Ismayilova had distributed a list of around 100 people she named as political prisoners.