The arrest and ongoing detention of Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, a prominent civil society activist in Azerbaijan, provides yet another illustration of the government’s intolerance towards independent civic activism in the country. Like many other activists, human rights defenders and journalists, Mr Hajiyev has been the target of reprisals and intimidation over many years, including criminal prosecution, threats and physical violence. Last year alone, he was abducted and severely ill-treated and to date, Azerbaijani authorities have failed to conduct an effective investigation and punish the perpetrators of that crime. Against this background, the continued detention of Mr Hajiyev and repeated refusals to change it into a restraint measure is unjustified and, in any case, disproportionate to the charges brought against him.
I am particularly worried at reports that he does not receive adequate medical care in the context of his rapidly deteriorating health in detention. I call on the authorities of Azerbaijan to immediately release Mr Hajiyev from custody and give him full access to the medical care he needs as a matter of urgency. Only last September, I highlighted the case of human rights lawyer Elchin Sadykov and journalist Avaz Zeynalli – prosecuted on grounds that lack credibility, and reiterated once again the immediate need to stop intimidating civil society actors in Azerbaijan. The government of Azerbaijan should reverse course and work towards creating a safe and enabling environment for their activities based on genuine dialogue and cooperation.