Prominent Activist Arrested for Campaigning against Referendum on Expanding Presidential Powers

The Azerbaijani authorities should immediately release and drop the criminal case against Natig Jafarli of the Republican Alternative Movement (ReAl), the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) said. Jafarli was arrested last Friday for his peaceful criticism of the upcoming national referendum, which seeks to expand the scope of presidential powers.

Azerbaijan’s slide toward a family-run order is gathering momentum: on 26 September, voters will decide on constitutional changes that would hand additional powers to long-standing President Ilham Aliyev and his family.

Natig Jafarli was arrested late in the evening on Friday, 12 August 2016. A court in Baku has charged him under Articles 192.1 (illegal business) and 308.2 (abuse of official powers – when such actions lead to serious consequences or are committed with the purpose of influencing the outcome of an election (referendum)) and sentenced him to four-months of pre-trial detention. Jafarli’s home was searched during the night and two computers and several legal documents were seized.

“Natig Jafarli is one of the few voices who has actually dared to challenge the repressive changes to the constitution proposed by President Aliyev”, commented IRFS Director Emin Huseynov.

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