Rasul Jafarov, 29, one of Azerbaijan’s best-known human rights activists and government critics, was sentenced on 16 April to six years and six months in prison on charges including tax evasion and abuse of power. He has also been barred from holding any office for three years following his release, reported contact.az.
The charges have been widely dismissed as trumped up and linked to Jafarov’s campaigning work.
In 2012, when the Eurovision song contest was held in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, Rasul Jafarov launched the ‘Sing for Democracy’ campaign to to showcase the country’s poor human rights record. Among other things he met with contest winner Loreen to discuss the human rights situation in the country. The campaign lasted 10 months and the project was successful in both raising awareness and fostering the cooperative efforts of civil society organisations in Azerbaijan.
When he was arrested in August 2014, Jafarov was also planning a Sports For Rights campaign in connection with the forthcoming inaugural European Games.
Condemn the sentencing
Index of Censorship writes that Jafarov’s arrest is part of an unprecedented crackdown on prominent journalists, activists and others critical of the leadership of President Aliyev.
“The sentencing of Rasul Jafarov is just the latest chapter in Azerbaijan’s ongoing attack on civil society. We must not allow the glitz of the Baku 2015 European Games to whitewash President Ilham Aliyev’s abysmal record on human rights,” said Index CEO Jodie Ginsberg.
The human rights organisation Article 19 joined members of the Sport for Rights coalition to resolutely condemn the sentencing of Rasul Jafarov, calling for his immediate release.
“This is just the latest example of the brutal crackdown on civil society by the host government of the forthcoming European Games,” said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of Article 19. “This ridiculous sentence is a punishment for Jafarov’s human rights activism. The authoritarian regime in Baku are scared of the attention Jafarov would bring during the high profile sport events they are proudly hosting – the European Games in June this year and the Formula One Grand Prix in 2016”.
The coalition calls for the EU and its Member States to impose targeted sanctions – for instance visa bans – against those members of the regime who systematically abuse fundamental human rights of citizens of Azerbaijan.
Rasul Jafarov was convicted under Articles 192 (illegal business), 213 (tax evasion) and 308 (abuse of power) of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan. During the trial, all the prosecution witnesses testified in his favor, and the prosecution failed to prove his guilt, reported Article 19.
After the verdict, Jafarov reiterated that the charges against him are politically motivated and fabricated.
» Article 19 – 17 April 2015:
Azerbaijan: Rasul Jafarov’s Conviction, the latest human rights violation
» Article 19 Statement:
Rasul Jafarov’s Conviction, the Latest Human Rights Violation in Azerbaijan (PDF)
» Index on Censorship – 16 April 2015:
Azerbaijan: Six-year jail sentence for human rights activist
Index on Censorship condemns Azerbaijan’s sentencing of Rasul Jafarov and continuing crackdown on civil society. Article by Milana Knezevic
» National Endowment for Democracy, NED:
Rasul Jafarov (Azerbaijan)
» Wikipedia page about Rasul Jafarov:
» Rasul Jafarov’s twitter account:
» Panorama – 5 August 2014:
International human rights organizations condemn arrest of Azerbaijani human rights defender Rasul Jafarov
» Artsfreedom – 10 April 2013:
Azerbaijan: Local authorities shut down human rights film festival
The Art for Democracy campaign condemns recent actions by local authorities to shut down a human rights film festival in Lankaran.
» Artsfreedom – 10 December 2012:
Azerbaijan: Art for Democracy campaign launched
On 10 December 2012, the Baku-based Human Rights Club launched a human rights campaign, Art for Democracy, to provide support to artists who are subjected to human rights violations.