Youth activist with NIDA, imprisoned since 10 May 2016
ROLE: Activist with youth movement, NIDA (‘Exclamation mark’). NIDA, which has over 350 members, aims to achieve democratic and social change in Azerbaijan. The movement claims to have no affiliation with any political party.
FOCUS: Pro-democracy activism.
ARRESTED: 10 May 2016. On 12 May 2016, the Khatai District Court ordered that Ibrahimov be held in pretrial detention.
CHARGE: Large-scale drug trafficking.
CURRENT STATUS: Imprisoned. Serving 10-year prison sentence.
CASE DETAILS: On 10 May 2016, Giyas was apprehended while leaving his university. He received a strong blow to the head and was dragged into a car by several people in civilian clothes. He was transferred to the Baku Main Police Office where he has alleged he was severely beaten. The police later stated that they found 2.607 grams of heroin on Ibrahimov, and 1.01 kilograms in his apartment.
Ibrahimov denies all charges against him, which he believes were motivated by his activism, and specifically his involvement in an incident of political graffiti the day before his arrest. On the night of 9 May 2016, Ibrahimov and another youth activist, Bayram Mammadov, painted “Happy Slave Day” on a statue of Heydar Aliyev, former Azerbaijani president and father of current president, Ilham Aliyev. Bayram Mammadov took a photo of the graffiti and later shared it anonymously on Facebook. The two men were later identified by police using CCTV.
Ibrahimov was initially refused access to a lawyer and confessed to the narcotics charges during police questioning; however then retracted his confession in court. He alleges that the confession was extracted under torture, including beatings and rape threats by the police. On 12 May 2016, the Khatai District Court ordered that Ibrahimov be held in pretrial detention for four months. During a court hearing, the judge requested an investigation into the torture allegations.
Ibrahimov’s lawyer appealed the initial 4 month period of pretrial detention; however, this was rejected by the Baku Court of Appeal on 19 May 2016, following a closed hearing. On 8 September 2016, in a preliminary hearing on the case, the Baku Serious Crimes Court indefinitely extended Ibrahimov’s pre-trial detention.
During hearings into the case, Ibrahimov pleaded not guilty, arguing that his earlier confession was extracted under torture.
Inrahimov’s lawyer pointed to deficiencies and procedural inconsistencies in the criminal investigation and subsequent prosecution. In particular, he raised concerns about the credibility of the police witnesses and questioned the basis on which the police allegedly decided to conduct a search of Ibrahimov. The police reportedly received ‘operational information … that Giyas Ibrahimov had bought 1 kg 012 grams of heroin from an Iranian citizen… and an operation was conducted on that basis’. The lawyer drew attention to a remarkable accuracy of the reported weight of the heroin stating, “The fact that the precise weight of the drugs, even with the accuracy to a gram, was known in advance suggests that it was weighed beforehand and planted in the house.”
Many international organisations have condemned Ibrahmiov’s sentence as politically motivated, with Human Right Watch stating, “Ibrahimov’s conviction fits squarely into a well-established pattern of Azerbaijan’s authorities using false, politically motivated criminal charges to jail political and youth activists.”
Police officers questioned Ibrahimov about the graffiti and repeatedly demanded that the activist publicly apologize for insulting Heydar Aliyev on state TV channel. When Ibrahimov refused, they subjected him to beatings and other ill-treatment.
Political graffiti does not incur criminal charges. As Human Rights Watch has argued, if the police want to pursue charges for the alleged graffiti they could do so under the relevant provisions of the administrative code.
Three other members of the NIDA group are currently serving between seven and eight years in prison on fabricated charges, including weapons possession, narcotics possession, and organising mass riots.
Compiled by ARTICLE 19 from a variety of sources. Current as of 26/10/2016.