Photo of Elchin Sadykov (left) and Avaz Zeynalli (right)
“Last Saturday’s arrest in Baku of human rights lawyer Elchin Sadykov and his client, journalist Avaz Zeynalli, illustrates once again the hostile environment faced by civil society activists and media actors. independents in Azerbaijan. Mr. Sadykov is a well-known human rights defender and a partner of my Office, who has courageously defended dozens of activists, independent journalists and opposition figures in Azerbaijan for many years. Unfortunately, he has been the target of continued intimidation and harassment for his legitimate human rights work, as have many other activists in Azerbaijan. For his part, Mr. Zeynalli is known to be an independent journalist who has also been subjected in the past to acts of intimidation and judicial harassment for his critical positions.
The overnight trial which ordered the remand in custody of Mr. Sadykov and Mr. Zeynalli raises serious questions about its compatibility with European human rights standards. It was held behind closed doors and in the absence of fundamental procedural safeguards, which heightens doubts about the credibility of their prosecution and imprisonment. Mr. Sadykov’s arrest followed the search of his business premises and the seizure of confidential information, which should be protected by lawyer-client privilege. These acts further compound the chilling effect on lawyers and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan and on freedom of expression, including freedom of the media, a long-standing concern in Azerbaijan.
I call on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately release Mr. Sadykov and Mr. Zeynalli and to fully guarantee respect for their rights and freedoms. The intimidation and harassment of civil society actors and independent journalists in Azerbaijan must stop immediately. It is the duty of the authorities to ensure that human rights defenders and media professionals can carry out their work in complete safety and freedom. »