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‘Prominent Azerbaijani activist kidnapped, tortured’

11 January 2017 17:14

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Plainclothes attackers have abducted and tortured a prominent Azerbaijani opposition blogger and whistle-blower, the latest incident of the harsh treatment of activists and rights campaigners in the oil-rich ex-Soviet country.

Mehman Huseynov, who serves as the chairman of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), a prominent media rights NGO in Azerbaijan, said on Wednesday that unidentified people had abducted him two days earlier when he was leaving a café in the capital, Baku.

“They taped up my mouth, put a sack on my head, used an electric shocker on me and pushed me into a car,” said Huseynov, adding that the attackers held him for several hours before handing him into police custody.

Huseynov, who is known for his investigative online blogging, said he was taken to a Baku police station after the attackers held him blindfolded and gagged for about three hours in an unknown location. The rights campaigner said he lost his consciousness during the police custody and was finally induced to sign a statement, something he declined to do.

“They thought I would break down and beg for forgiveness for the work that I do,” said Huseynov, adding that he was fined 200 manat ($111) after a court on Tuesday charged him with resisting police orders after allegedly verbally abusing a passerby. The activist said he would not pay the fine.

The IRFS condemned the attack in a statement on Wednesday and said that it seemed to have been ordered by top officials in the “Azerbaijani ruling establishment.” The statement added that such incidents come amid a climate of “complete impunity” in Azerbaijan, calling on officials to allow Huseynov to leave the country to receive proper medical treatment.

Huseynov, 26, has faced prosecution over the past years for video blogs exposing corruption among lawmakers and officials. His brother, Emin, fled Azerbaijan in 2015 onboard the plane of the Swiss foreign minister after taking refuge in the country’s embassy while facing several criminal charges. Emin acts as the CEO of the IRFS and is a fierce critic of the human rights record of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.

Azerbaijan has been criticized over the past years for its ill record on human rights and how it deals with activists, journalists and other campaigners.

Human Rights Watch has accused the Aliyev administration of “cracking down on human rights activists and critical journalists.”

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