Azerbaijani Cancer Patient Dies In Pretrial Detention; Authorities Refused To Release Him

BAKU -- Aydin Qurbanov, a man held in pretrial detention in Azerbaijan for nearly a year after mass disturbances in the city of Ganca, has died in custody from cancer.

Qurbanov was diagnosed as having terminal cancer while he was in custody.

Authorities in Baku refused to allow his release so that he could die at home in the presence of his family.

His wife, Mahbuda Mammadova, told RFE/RL that Qurbanov died on July 10 at the Penitentiary Service's medical unit in Baku.

Mammadova said that the Penitentiary Service informed her on July 8 that Qurbanov was in grave condition.

She said his jailers allowed her to see him for 15 minutes, and that he was in a coma when she arrived.

"I begged the officials to let me to take him home to at least allow him to have his last breath at home, to let his children to hold his hand. They refused. They said a court must decide that," Mammadova said.

Qurbanov was one of 80 people arrested in late July 2018 in the city of Ganca.

The arrests came after Ganca's mayor was shot and wounded earlier that month in an attack outside his office. Days later, amid unrest that erupted in the wake of the attack, two police officers were killed.

Five men suspected of involvement in the killing of the police officers were shot dead in separate police operations after the unrest broke out.

Azerbaijani authorities described the disturbances as an attempt by radical Islamists to pave the way for the creation of an Islamic republic.

Many of the suspects in the case have been tried in groups and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Qurbanov, who was charged with illegal arms possession, was scheduled to face trial in late July.

President Ilham Aliyev's opponents, Western countries, and international human rights groups say Aliyev's government has persistently persecuted critics, political foes, independent media outlets, and civic activists.

Aliyev, who has ruled Azerbaijan since shortly before his father's death in 2003, has rejected the criticism.