Reacting on the news that Tofig Yagublu, an Azerbaijani opposition politician, was re-arrested today after being arbitrarily detained and severely beaten by police on 1 December, Natalia Nozadze, Amnesty International’s Researcher on South Caucasus, said:
“This latest detention of Tofig Yagublu represents little more than a state-sanctioned attack on government critics and basic freedoms in Azerbaijan. It sends a chilling message that those who dare to protest will face arrest – and may suffer beatings.
“The authorities are using the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to trample on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. They must only introduce restrictions that are necessary, proportionate and that do not arbitrarily restrict the rights of Azerbaijani people.
“The authorities must immediately end their crackdown on opposition politicians and uphold the rights of all people in Azerbaijan.”
On 15 December, Tofig Yagublu was arrested among other protesters who took to the streets in central Baku demanding the release of imprisoned political activist Saleh Rustamli. Police surrounded the protestors and dragged them to police vans as soon as they began chanting slogans that called for the activist’s release. Tofig Yagublu and other protesters were fined and then released.
Two weeks earlier, on 1 December, Tofig Yagublu was detained and handcuffed by police, who then placed a plastic bag over his head and severely beat him at the police station. He gave a video interview the following day, in which severe bruising and swelling was visible around his eyes.
Tofig Yagublu is a political opponent of Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev. In September 2020, he was sentenced to four years and three months in prison on bogus charges. In July 2021, he was released on parole with a probationary period of two years and six months.