RFE/RL, WARSAW, 27 May 2014 – The Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, today condemned
the sentencing of Azerbaijani human rights defender Anar Mammadli by a Baku court to a prison term of 5 ½ years, describing the ruling as just the latest element in a campaign by the authorities in Azerbaijan to silence those working to ensure the protection of fundamental freedoms.
“Following a concerted campaign of harassment and intimidation of Anar Mammadli and his election monitoring organization by the authorities, I have no doubt that the conviction and sentence in his case are aimed at preventing him from working to defend the rights of voters,” Lenarčič said.
“It is also clear to me that this ruling and others like it, are intended as a warning meant to silence others in Azerbaijan who would work to defend the very rights and freedoms that the country has committed itself to promote.”
“These actions by the Azeri authorities are in complete contravention of both the country’s obligations to its own citizens and its commitments as an OSCE participating State in the sphere of human rights, including democratic rights,” he added.
Mammadli, Chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies (EMDS) centre, was detained on 16 December 2013, on charges of embezzlement, tax evasion, abuse of office and forgery. EMDS, which has had its registration revoked by the Ministry of Justice, was established after a May 2008 decision by a district court to deregister its predecessor, the Election Monitoring Centre. An appeal in that case is currently pending at the European Court for Human Rights.
On the day after the 9 October 2013 presidential election in Azerbaijan, EMDS issued a statement noting extensive violations of fundamental freedoms and a range of other shortcomings in the electoral process. ODIHR observers found many of the same problems and reported on them in the preliminary statement issued on the same day.
On May 26, Mammadli, the chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center, was sentenced to five and-a-half years in prison.
The center's executive director, Bashir Suleymanli, received a three and-a-half year prison term.
The director of the Union for International Cooperation of Volunteers, Elnur Mammadov, received a suspended two-year sentence.
Mammadli's organization monitored elections in Azerbaijan last autumn and exposed widespread irregularities and fraud during balloting and vote counting.
Mammadli's supporters say the charges against him and his associates are politically motivated.