Foreign Policy Blogs

Azerbaijan: prominent lawyer disbarred, youth activist arrested

Disturbing news out of Azerbaijan today, where a prominent defense attorney has been effectively disbarred and a young political activist was arrested on drug charges.

Osman Kazimov, a well-known defense lawyer who has defended, among others, Said Nuri, was reportedly kicked out of Azerbaijan’s Collegium, a body that functions like an über bar association.  By that I mean that while membership in the Collegium is not necessary to simply practice law in Azerbaijan, you must be a member in order to argue cases involving felonies.

Ironically, I referred to Kazimov earlier in this blog when discussing legal reform in Georgia, and sometimes it seems that everyone I interview in Azerbaijan either goes to prison or has his life ruined.  Let’s hope Kazimov can prevail eventually.

I met Kazimov in 2006 when covering the sensational trials of Nuri, Ruslan Bashirli, and Ramin Tagiyev, who were charged with attempting the overthrow of the Azerbaijani government.  (See this article for background.)  The case was vexing for Kazimov due to not having enough time to prepare, he said, and not being given an opportunity for scientific examination of an incriminating videotape secretly recorded in a Tbilisi flat.

Azerbaijan: prominent lawyer disbarred, youth activist arrested

Osman Kazimov outside Baku's Serious Crimes Court, 2006

Kazimov is an outgoing, amiable fellow, and even my translator, who told me that he disapproved of the opposition, admitted that he liked the guy.

In unrelated news (well, not exactly unrelated), 19 year-old activist Jabbar Savalan was reportedly arrested at his home in Sumgayit last night after attending a youth conference.

Go here for confirmation from the Baku bureau of Radio Liberty, and see this piece in English posted by photojournalist Turxan Qarışqa.

Azerbaijan: prominent lawyer disbarred, youth activist arrested

Jabbar Savalan

The charge was, predictably, drug possession, a favorite tactic of the prosecutor’s office when wanting to send a message to people who support the Popular Front Party or other opposition groups.  For example, as I wrote a few years ago, in 2006, well-known poet and opposition journalist Sakit Zahidov was convicted on charges of illegal possession of drugs. Coincidentally,  an official of Azerbaijan’s ruling New Azerbaijan Party had called for Zahidov’s arrest for  “slanders” against government officials.

Turxan also tells me that there was a bit of a fracas at the Hosni Mubarak statue outside Baku today when a handful of opposition supporters staged a mini-rally.  Here is a verbatim cut-and-paste from Turxan:

“Today around 14:00 up to 30 youth activists from opposition parties and youth organizations held protest rally in the park of “Egypt-Azerbaijan friendship.” Participants of protest shot different slogans like “Dictator Exit,” “Your revolution is Mubarak” (in Azeri means congratulation). “Let Egyptians free and luck.“ “Be off Hosni Mubark.”

“Protesters blew a whistle [at the] monument of Hosni Mubarak. Protest endured a few minutes. Young activists run away after coming of police to the park. No one was arrested.”

See picture from Turxan below…

Azerbaijan: prominent lawyer disbarred, youth activist arrested

Mini-protest at Hosni Mubarak monument, Baku

Finally, the Egyptian blogger “sandmonkey,” mentioned here last week, was attacked by police in Cairo, he says, while attempting to ferry supplies to anti-Mubarak protesters.  His cover is now blown, and you can see his interview with CNN’s Eliot Spitzer here.



Karl Rahder

Karl Rahder has written on the South Caucasus for ISN Security Watch and ISN Insights (, news and global affairs sites run by the Swiss government. Karl splits his time between the US and the former USSR - mostly the Caucasus and Ukraine, sometimes teaching international relations at universities (in Chicago, Baku, Tbilisi) or working on stories for ISN and other publications. Karl received his MA from the University of Chicago, and first came to the Caucasus in 2004 while on a CEP Visiting Faculty Fellowship. He's reported from the Caucasus on topics such as attempted coups, sedition trials, freedom of the press, and the frozen Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. For many years, Karl has also served as an on-call election observer for the OSCE, and in 2010, he worked as a long-term observer in Afghanistan for Democracy International.