Azerbaijan: Health concerns for reporter Elchin Mammad

Update #1 to RAN 02/2020

PEN International is deeply concerned for the health of reporter, lawyer and human rights defender Elchin Mammad, who is serving a four-year prison sentence on trumped-up charges of theft and illegal possession of weapons. His family said that his health seriously deteriorated while in detention. Being ill with Hepatitis C, he has lost a significant amount of weight and is not receiving the adequate medical treatment that he needs. Mammad’s appeal hearing before the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan is due to take place on 7 July 2021. PEN International calls for his immediate and unconditional release and for his sentence and conviction to be quashed.

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

Please send appeals:

  • Protesting Elchin Mammad’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;
  • Calling on the Azerbaijani authorities to end the abuse of the legal system to persecute journalists, human rights defenders and other dissident voices, and to immediately release all those held in prison for having exercised their rights to freedom of opinion and expression.

Send appeals to:

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev

Send copies to the Embassy of Azerbaijan in your own country. Embassy addresses may be found here: https://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-of/azerbaijan .

Please also call on your Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic representatives in Azerbaijan to raise Elchin Mammad’s case in bilateral and multilateral fora.

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 12 September 2021. ***

SOLIDARITY

Please send messages of support to Elchin Mammad in prison at the following address:

Elchin Mammad, Prison No. 16 of the Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice, Yeni Ramana Road, Baku, Sabunchu, AZ1128, BAKU, AZERBAIJAN

Mammad understands Azerbaijani, Russian, Turkish, Farsi and English.

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

Background

Elchin Mammad is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Yukselish Namine newspaper, which supports the activities of civil society organisations in Azerbaijan and publishes articles on human rights, freedom of speech and of the press, as well as information about citizens’ access to information. Currently, it is published online only. Mammad is also a human rights lawyer and the president of the Social Union of Legal Education of Sumgait Youth (SULESY), an organisation that provides free legal assistance to low-income families and legal support for local NGOs, and undertakes legal capacity-building activities for civil society actors.

Elchin Mammad was arrested on 30 March 2020 at his home in the city of Sumgait. Police claimed to have found stolen jewellery in his office. The next day, Sumgait City Court remanded him in custody for three months as a criminal suspect. His arrest came a few days after he had published a critical report on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. While in detention, Mammad was additionally charged with illegal weapons possession. On 14 October 2020, the Sumgait City Court sentenced him to four years in prison for theft and illegal possession of weapons, under Articles 177.2.4 and 228.1 of Azerbaijan’s Criminal Code. According to reports, Mammad was denied a fair trial, with the evidence against him inconsistent, and the investigation phase marred by police tampering. His sentence was upheld by the Sumgayit Court of Appeal on 19 February 2021.

On 12 June 2021, Elchin Mammad was transferred to the Central Penitentiary hospital in Baku, after his health condition seriously deteriorated. He reportedly lost a significant amount of weight, has trouble walking and swollen legs. Being ill with Hepatitis C, he is not receiving the medical care that he needs. His appeal hearing before the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan is due to take place on 7 July 2021. He is currently being held in Prison n. 16 of the Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice, in Baku.

Elchin Mammad has faced harassment and intimidation by the authorities since 2015. He has repeatedly been under judicial or law enforcement investigation involving several alleged crimes. In this context, Mammad has been interrogated and has had his house and office searched on multiple occasions.

The persecution by the Azerbaijani authorities of Elchin Mammad fits a pattern in which critical voices are targeted with politically motivated arrests on spurious charges, prolongued pre-trial detention and custodial sentences. Prison conditions in Azerbaijan are very poor, a situation that is likely exacerbated by the measures taken in the context of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Media in the country are under tight government control, and the majority of independent outlets have been forced to close or go into exile. Those still operating face police raids, financial pressures and prosecution of journalists and editors on trumped up charges. PEN International urges Azerbaijan to comply with its 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.

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 Fax +44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org