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Azerbaijan’s top human rights lawyer convicted to 7,5 years in prison

22 April 2015

Intigam Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s renowned human rights lawyer with an impeccable international reputation, has been convicted to 7.5 years in prison.

The Netherlands Helsinki Committee and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights are appalled by the decision to sentence Intigam Aliyev. We call on the European policy-makers and the national governments to put meaningful pressure on their Azerbaijani counterparts to live up to their human rights obligations, should they wish to continue benefitting from the current political and economic cooperation with Europe.

The conviction of Intigam Aliyev followed a trial that did not meet fair trial standards under international law. Previously, NHC and HFHR have reported strong indications of the Court’s bias and unequal treatment of Intigam Aliyev. The defence team addressed numerous irregularities and violations during the legal proceedings, most of which were simply ignored by the court.

The conditions created by the law enforcement resulted in Mr. Aliyev feeling ill when he had to appear before the Court. His ability to communicate with the defence team was hampered and he has been subject to degrading treatment.

One of the major violations was the denial by the prosecution to provide the defence with access to the documents of the case. This severely limited the defence team in their capabilities to conduct a thorough defence. Additionally, the Court failed to provide the defence with adequate time to prepare the case. Aliyev’s handwritten notes were taken from him and censored. His defence team was forced to undergo a similar intrusive checking of their documents, which constituted a severe violation of the defence’s confidentiality.

Trial observers have noted with grave concern the biased treatment of the defence by the presiding judges, including the prosecution leading the witnesses and the judges appearing to advocate on the victims’ behalf. Several times, the Court went as far as commenting on the answers provided by the victims. During every hearing, the defence team was interrupted and denied the right to conduct a proper questioning. The possibility to examine the authenticity of the key pieces of evidence of the prosecution was denied.

In his final words prior to the announcement of the sentencing decision, Aliyev underlined the fabricated nature of his conviction. “Being arrested can take away our freedom, but not our desire to be free. Our arrest is the continuation of our struggle”, – said Aliyev. The defence declared the verdict illegal and politically motivated, and is going to file an appeal.