Azerbaijan activists’ detention extended

Protesters face an extra three months in prison without trial.

Members of Azerbaijan’s N!DA Civic movement have been held since the end of March this year. It was confirmed this week that their pre-trial detention is to continue for another three months.

Rashadat Akhdunov, 28, faces charges related to the possession of firearms. Fellow activist Zaur Gurbanli faces charges of “hooliganism”. N!DA insists the charges are false. Gurblani suffers from Thalassemia, a blood disorder which requires medical monitoring. Akhdunov, meanwhile, has been unable to see his baby who was born after he was taken into custody.

The activists were arrested after protests against deaths in the Azerbaijan army. There has been a series of suspicious deaths of non combatant army staff in recent years.

The US Ambassador in Baku called for the activists to be treated fairly.

“We continue to follow with concern the cases of these and other individuals arrested as a result of this spring’s protests,” said Richard Morningstar. “We urge the government to ensure that due process and the rule of law are upheld for all detainees, including speedy, fair and transparent trials.”

On 17 May, blogger Ilkin Rustamzadeh was arrested, allegedly for “disturbing public order” after creating a “Harlem Shake” video — despite the fact he claims he was not involved. Rustamzadeh was an organiser of the March protests over military deaths.

In a statement, N!DA urged the international community to “publicly call by name for the release of these Azerbaijani dissidents and aid in raising international awareness of their cases.”

Index on Censorship, Art for Democracy and ARTICLE 19 demanded the release of political prisoners in Azerbaijan in a protest at Azerbaijan’s embassy in London on 13 June.


Padraig Reidy, Index on Censorship