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UPDATE: Peaceful Activists Arrested, Amnesty International Reports Torture Fears

UPDATE: Peaceful Activists Arrested, Amnesty International Reports Torture Fears

From left to right: Etibar Salmanli, Jamal Ali, Natig Kamilov at the protest on March 17 in Baku, Azerbaijan. Credit: Free Photoreporters Union

The sanctioned peaceful protest that took place in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku on Saturday, March 17 resulted in arrest of three activists. Members of Bulistan band Jamal Ali, 24, and Natig Kamilov, 24, and another activist Etibar Salmanli, 25, were arrested after a fight that broke during Ali’s performance. The singer has used strong language in his song, displeasing some protesters. During the fight he has also insulted President Ilham Aliyev’s late mother. Young men were sentenced to five to ten days of detention on charges of “petty hooliganism” and are allegedly subject to torture under custody.

After the court hearing on Saturday, the activists’ attorney Anar Gasimli spoke to RFE/RL. According to Gasimov, Kamilov and Ali were assaulted during the arrest. Kamilov’s nose was bleeding and he felt weak, while Ali had bruises on his body and face. The lawyer has also said he took pictures of Ali’s injuries but is not yet willing to share it with press.

According to Amnesty International’s report issued on Tuesday, Ali, Kamilov and Salmanli are still held in Sabail police station, even though there were supposed to be transferred to a corrective detention facility. The band members Ali and Kamilov are being held incommunicado and, according to friends, were assaulted by the police officers while in custody. Lawyers and family are not allowed to visit the detainees.

The Court of Appeal will hear the case of Ali, Kamilov and Salmanli on Wednesday, March 21.

Baku Police Department reported that the protest gathered up to 400 people, while the organizers claim the number to be much bigger. The protesters called for Azerbaijani government to stop corruption in education system, release political prisoners and end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Their Facebook page listed more than 1,000 attendees and the Twitter campaign was held under #17Mart hashtag. RFE/RL, and other media outlets have posted pictures from the protest.

UPDATE: According to RFE/RL, Jamal Ali testified he has been tortured by the police officers during the hearing on this case in the Court of Appeal on Wednesday.

“I said they beat me the last time, then they brought me in and beat again. Now that I said that, they will take me back and beat again,” said the singer in his testimony at the court. According to him, the police officers used sticks to beat the soles of his feet for two hours on March 19. Ali has also asked to be released in the court.

Natig Kamilov said he was also beaten and forced to write a testimony under dictation.

“I wrote whatever they told me. I wasn’t feeling well. They told me to write that I cursed. And I did. Then there was a pause and I used it to write that I didn’t,” Kamilov also said the detainees are provided with food once, sometimes twice a day.

Etibar Salmanli said he only signed his testimony because the police officers promised to release him as soon as he did when he was brought to the precinct on Saturday.

Attourney Anar Gasimli requested a 10-minute one-on-one meeting with his client Ali, which he was not given for four days. However, the motion was denied after a police officer addressed the court, saying Gasimov can meet Ali only if he submits his cell phone, which the lawyer said was against the law.

The Court of Appeal denied motions to release the detainees on fine and confirmed the verdict by the Sabail Court.

The type of torture used against Ali called foot whipping, or bastinado, was widely used in Ottoman Empire, China and Asian countries. Due to the clustering of nerves in the feet, this method is “effective” because it causes pain without leaving any marks.




Nigar Fatali
Nigar Fatali

Born in 1986 in Baku, Azerbaijan, Nigar Fatali received her Bachelor's degree in filmmaking from Azerbaijan State University of Art and Culture.

Fatali has been blogging since 2007, writing about politics, human rights and social issues in Azerbaijan. Since 2009 she has worked as a journalist, associate editor and copywriter in non-profit and private sectors.

She is in her first year of graduate studies in journalism in the University of Arizona, Tucson.

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