Peaceful Assembly

More than 40 people arrested during protest

On 9th September 2020, the Garda.com portal announced that more than 20 people were detained by authorities during an unauthorised protest by supporters of Tofiq Yaqublu, who was sentenced to 4 years and 3 months in prison on 3rd September 2020. The next day, Jam-News reported that the number of those detained was actually about 40 people.

Yaqublu, an Azeri politician who is a member of the Musavat Opposition Party, was arrested in March 2020, accused of attacking two people while sitting in his car. The politician however claimed that he was not guilty and that the incident in question had been staged by authorities. Although he was the one who called the police to investigate the case, they disagreed with his version of the incident and detained him.

After his conviction, Yaqublu went on a hunger-strike, which led his supporters to protest in front of the Court demanding his release. He was released under house arrest on 22nd Septemberpending the outcome of his appeal, after he agreed to end a 17-day hunger strike.

Previously, Yaqublu was detained in 2014 for organising mass protests and released in 2016. In 2019, he was also detained for participating in public demonstrations.

Expression

Russian Journalist accused of terrorism and illegally crossing the border of Nagorno-Karabakh

Following fighting which began in Nagorno-Karabakh on 27th September 2020 leading to the deaths and injuries of thousands of soldiers and civilians, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Azerbaijan opened a criminal case against Semen Pegov, a Russian journalist. Pegov, who is the founder of the WarGonzo project, was reporting from Nagorno-Karabakh - a region in South Caucasus - after he was accused by Azeri authorities of illegally crossing the border of Azerbaijan and of terrorism.

According to reports, Semen Pegov was accused of allegedly entering into "criminal relations with persons in Armenia and in the occupied territories of the Azerbaijan Republic." The Azeri authorities have sought the legal support of the Russian authorities, as his country of citizenship, to help them detain and punish Pegov.

Nagorno-Karabakh, supported by Armenia, is inhabited primarily by ethnic Armenians but is legally part of Azerbaijan. The mediation initiated by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs between Armenian and Azeri officials failed on the second day after an agreement was reached. 

Access to the internet temporarily limited following the declaration of Martial Law

Following the launch of military operations in Nagorno-Karabakh on 27th September 2020, Azerbaijani government authorities obstructed the population's access to the Internet as several social networks became inaccessible. According to NetBlocks, social media such as Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Twitter, Zoom, Skype and Messenger servers were unavailable immediately after the fighting broke out after Azeri authorities declared Martial Law as a security measure.

Association

CSOs participate in meetings with government officials

In August 2020, civil society organisations participated in several meetings with the International Policy Unit of the President’s Office to discuss several issues including the foreign policy interests promoted by the presidential administration, and how to engage in projects and initiatives to promote the country abroad.

According to theInternational Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) about 200 representatives of Azerbaijani civil society attended these meetings, including some which are critical of the authorities. ICNL also stated that “During these meetings, each participant had the opportunity to speak. Nearly all participants complained about setbacks in the NGO legislation and registration of foreign funding.”

Independent civil society in Azerbaijan faces many problems, and government authorities are still not open to amending restrictive legislation. The media reported that these joint meetings between government and civil society would continue.