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Azerbaijan: Imprisoned writer on hunger strike

Wednesday 16 January 2019 - 4:13pm

Rashad Ramazanov

Writer and blogger Rashad Ramazanov is on hunger strike and in poor health. He is one of several Azerbaijani prisoners, activists and opposition figures who have been on hunger strike in solidarity with jailed anti-corruption blogger Mehman Huseynov, against whom the Azerbaijani authorities have brought new spurious charges in December 2018, just weeks before his scheduled release. Rashad Ramazanov is also protesting against his own continuous detention on politically-motivated grounds. He was arrested almost six years ago and sentenced to nine years in prison on fabricated charges of drug possession and drug sale. PEN International is deeply concerned for his health and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

TAKE ACTION: Share on Facebook, Twitter and other social media:

Please send appeals to the Azerbaijani authorities via your embassy:

  • Protesting Rashad Ramazanov’s detention on politically-motivated charges, and calling on the Azerbaijani authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally and to overturn his conviction and sentence;
  • Expressing serious concern for his health and well-being and ensuring that, pending his release, he is provided with adequate medical care;
  • Condemning the Azerbaijani authorities’ attempts to bring new charges against unjustly imprisoned critics in order to detain them longer, and calling on them to immediately and unconditionally release all those arbitrarily detained;
  • Calling on the Azerbaijani authorities to comply with their obligations under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which Azerbaijan is a state party) to protect the right to freedom of expression.

Please send your letters via the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in your country.  Addresses may be found here.

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 16 February 2019. ***

Please inform PEN of any action you take and of any responses you receive.

SOLIDARITY

Please send messages of support to Rashad Ramazanov in prison at the following address:

Baku Prison #2

2 Cezachekme Muessisesi,

Khazar Rayonu, Bina Qesebesi,

AZ 1045 Baku

Azerbaijan

Rashad Ramazanov is an honorary member of PEN Canada, which has been at the forefront of an international solidarity campaign with him and his family. We encourage all PEN Centres to follow suit, as solidarity messages are crucial to them. For more information about PEN Canada’s activities and solidarity campaign please click here.

Background

Writer and blogger Rashad Ramazanov (pen-name Rashad Hagigat Agaaddin) was arrested on 9 May 2013 and sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of ‘illegal possession and sale of drugs’ (Article 234.4.3 of the Criminal Code). Rashad Ramazanov is well-known for his anti-government postings, and PEN International considers the charges against him to be politically-motivated. In January 2017, he was punished with 15 days in solitary confinement for reasons unknown. He suffers from a number of health problems as a result of his imprisonment, most serious being tuberculosis, which he contracted when he was arbitrarily detained in 2005. His family report that he is in poor health, concerns that are exacerbated by his current hunger strike.

Mehman Huseynov, one of Azerbaijan’s most popular anti-corruption journalists and blogger, was sentenced to two years in prison in March 2017 for defaming the staff of a police station, after he dared to go public about the abuse he allegedly suffered at the hands of police officers. On 26 December 2018, two months before his scheduled release, the Azerbaijani authorities claimed that he resisted and physically assaulted a prison guard, charges which he strongly denies. He is one of five critics imprisoned on politically-motivated grounds who were about to complete their sentences and against whom the Azerbaijani authorities have brought new spurious charges in a bid to keep them detained. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted and has been on hunger strike since 26 December 2018 in protest. He is reportedly in a critical condition.

According to reports, at least seven Azerbaijani imprisoned dissidents, including Rashad Ramazanov, and prominent journalist Khadija Ismayilova, are on hunger strike in support of Mehman Huseynov. The hunger strikers are further calling on the Azerbaijani authorities to:

  • Drop all new spurious charges against the five imprisoned critics who are about to complete their sentences;
  • Release all journalists, bloggers, and activists who are being imprisoned solely for peacefully expressing their views;
  • Adopt a so-called ‘zero political prisoners policy’, including a review of all existing cases in cooperation with human rights activists.

The European Parliament will debate an urgent resolution on Azerbaijan on 17 January 2019. The resolution notably calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those arbitrarily detained, including Rashad Ramazanov.

For more information about freedom of expression in Azerbaijan please click here.

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338  e-mail: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org