17 January 2018 – PEN International is concerned about reprisals by the Azerbaijani authorities against the relatives of Sahib Teymurov.
‘We call on the authorities of Azerbaijan to release Tahir Teymurov immediately. We believe he is suffering reprisals from the authorities because they are concerned by Sahib Teymurov’s criticism of the government and are not able to act against him. Sahib Teymurov has only exercised his right to peaceful expression’, said Salil Tripathi, chairperson of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee. ‘In addition, there must be a swift and effective investigation into Tahir Teymurov’s disappearance, as well as the allegations of torture or ill-treatment during this time.’
Sahib Teymurov, a human rights defender from Azerbaijan who is currently a refugee in Canada, posted a message critical of the Aliyev regime on Facebook on 3 December 2017. On 7 December, several of Teymurov’s relatives living in Azerbaijan were detained by the police and forced to call him and ask that he delete the impugned message, or else they would face the consequences. Teymurov refused to delete the message and the following day, his step-brother Tahir Teymurov disappeared. His whereabouts remained unknown until 21 December, when it was confirmed by the authorities that he is under detention and faces narcotics-related charges for which he faces 5 to 12 years’ imprisonment if found guilty. Tahir Teymurov’s relatives allege that he has been tortured during the period of his disappearance.
With regard to the allegations of torture, PEN International notes that there are recurring serious and credible allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment against those detained in Azerbaijan for exercising their right to freedom of expression, which are not adequately investigated. Furthermore, a well-established pattern has been documented of Azerbaijan’s authorities using false, politically motivated criminal charges to jail dissenters, including the planting of narcotics.
Before he moved to Canada, Sahib Teymurov and his wife also repeatedly suffered Government reprisals for his activities as a human rights defender and for the peaceful expression of his political opinions, including alleged torture during pre-trial detention in a case that likely constituted a form of judicial harassment in 2007 and forcible psychiatric detention in 2008.
For further information please contact Laurens Hueting at PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Street, London SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: Laurens.Hueting@pen-international.org