Blogger and youth activist, imprisoned since 17 May 2013
ROLE: Blogger, youth activist and member of Azad Genchlik (Free Youth Organisation)
FOCUS: Well known for posting online critical comments about corruption in higher education and government
ARRESTED: 17 May 2013
CHARGED: Organising mass violent disorder
CONVICTED: Rustemzade was sentenced to 8 years in prison on 6 May 2014
CASE DETAILS: Rustemzade was arrested on charges of hooliganism in May 2013, due to his alleged involvement in a ‘Harlem Shake’ video filmed in Baku, despite the fact that the video has apparently no political content, and Rustemzade is not even featured on-screen. After his initial arrest, further charges were brought against him, including incitement to violence and organising mass violent disorder, related to an alleged plan to incite violence at a March 2013 protest in Baku. He was held in pre-trial detention for a year, until his sentencing on 6 May 2014.
CURRENT STATUS: Imprisoned, release date May 2022. The Supreme Court refused Rustemzade’s appeal against his sentence on 15 October 2015. Since his arrest, Rustemzade has been held in solitary confinement on several occasions, which is supporters believe is related to his ongoing criticism of the Azerbaijani authorities.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: In April 2013, immediately prior to his arrest, Rustemzade had previously served 15 days administrative detention for participating in an unsanctioned memorial service to mark the four-year anniversary of a shooting at Azerbaijan’s State Oil Academy. While in detention, Rustemzade had his head forcibly shaved.
He was arrested for the second time as part of the same criminal investigation in which seven youth activists of the N!DA Civic Movement were arrested, later receiving sentences ranging from six to eight years. The movement seeks to bring about democratic change in Azerbaijan, and is very active on social media, posting frequently satirical posts about democracy, human rights and corruption in the country. Amnesty International has recognised Rustemzade as a prisoner of conscience.
Compiled by ARTICLE 19 from a variety of sources. Current as of 15/06/2016