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Azerbaijan: Human rights defender Rasul Jafarov writes from prison protesting his innocence
“In the past 2-3 years everyone was asking half-joking, half-serious, when I was going to be arrested. It has happened, and now I'm looking forward to your support” Rasul Jafarov, Baku Pre-trial Detention Centre, Azerbaijan
Rasul Jafarov is Coordinator of the Art for Democracy campaign and the head of Human Rights Club, which launched several critical campaigns against politically-motivated imprisonment, including the “Sing for Democracy” campaign (later re-named Art for Democracy) devoted to the Eurovision Song Contest in May 2012.
In June 2014, Rasul Jafarov presented a report on human rights violations in Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg. Under new restrictive legislation on the receipt of foreign funding Rasul Jafarov has been charged under the Criminal Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan with illegal enterprise, tax evasion, and abuse of official power. The Nasimi District Court in Baku has ordered Rasul Jafarov to serve three months of pre-trial detention. Front Line Defendwers believes that the charges against Rasul Jafarov are in retaliation for his human rights activities.
IN THIS LETTER FROM BAKU PRE-TRIAL DETENTION CENTRE RASUL PROCLAIMS HIS INNOCENCE AND CHALLENGES THE BASIS FOR THE CHARGES AGAINST HIM
Ladies and gentlemen, Dear friends
I would like to bring to your attention to the fact that the charges brought against me are completely unlawful and groundless. One might ask why? Because,
1. I was registered as an individual entrepreneur with the tax authorities on 25 August 2008 and obtained a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). From that time up until now, I fully paid all relevant taxes and social insurance contributions at the appropriate time and in accordance with the terms of the funds paid to me for my services under the projects in which I was involved. It can be easily verified by sending an inquiry to tax agencies.
2. The Human Rights Club was founded in December 2010, and at the founding meeting I was elected the chairman of the organisation. The Human Rights Club has repeatedly applied to the Ministry of Justice for registration, but due to unjustified and unlawful denial of state registration, appeals were made to all relevant courts in Azerbaijan, and at present this case is pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
The process of seeking registration and filing appeals continued from 2011 till 2013; since the legislation during this period did not prohibit activity by unregistered NGOs, we, as the Human Rights Club, implemented a variety of projects between 2011 and 2013. Each of these projects was carried out under grant agreements signed with the donor organisations which were voluntarily presented to the Prosecutor General’s Office. Also, at the time of signing these agreements, the Ministry of Justice was informed of this by letter. Moreover, the funds under each grant were transferred not in a secret or non-transparent manner, but by transfer to the bank accounts in an open and accessible way to ensure visibility for law enforcement and other relevant agencies, with the purpose of each transfer being indicated as “grant”. Since the Human Rights Club (HRC) was not officially registered, as the chairman of the HRC the transfers were made to my bank accounts. In this case, what kind of illegal entrepreneurship or abuse of office or tax evasion can one talk about?
You may wonder then why I was arrested.
Let’s look at the projects examined by the investigators and covered by the indictment:
A human rights campaign related to the Eurovision Song Contest– Sing for Democracy (subsequently renamed Art for Democracy Campaign) that uses different types of art to promote and protect human rights, increase voter turnout on the eve of elections and so on. As well as being in the spotlight of the local and international community, all of these projects were targeted in libelous and insulting articles in the pro-government media which also included the ruling party’s official newspaper “Yeni Azerbaijan”.
The Azerbaijani government argues everywhere and at the highest level that there are no political prisoners in Azerbaijan. However I and my colleagues do not argue, but our case proves that there are political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
During the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe held in June 2014, i.e. shortly before my arrest, a round table was held on the gravity of the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. I was the person who was directly involved in determination of everything from the technical aspects to the content of the roundtable (together with Intigam Aliyev, Emin Huseynov and Rashid Hajili who are currently being persecuted). I was also involved in organising the flash-mob held by our young friends on the day of Ilham Aliyev’s speech. And finally, in the past 2-3 years everyone was asking half-joking, half-serious, when I was going to be arrested. It happened, and now I'm looking forward to your support! Thank you everyone
Baku Pre-Trial Detention Center (Kurdakhani settlement)
14 August 2014
See here for more information on the case of Rasul Jabarov - http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/26786