We, civil society representatives, are seriously concerned about the threat to the life of a political prisoner who is on hunger strike, the fact that the problem of “political prisoners” has not been resolved for years in the light of this bad example, and the systematic violations of fundamental rights and freedoms. The purpose of our appeal is to inform you about the serious political and legal problems facing Azerbaijani society and to ask you to spare no effort to help us overcome the crisis.

Unfortunately, despite our efforts, more than 100 victims of the “political prisoner” problem in Azerbaijan are serving prison sentences. The detention, trial, and imprisonment of one of them, Saleh Rustamov, the activist of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), were a series of extensive lawlessness. S. Rustamov, who is a Russian citizen while retaining Azerbaijani citizenship, has been engaged in small business in Russia since 1998. When S. Rustamov, who has assisted the families of APFP members arrested for political reasons and relatives of other political prisoners and also assisted in the delivery of aid provided by other Azerbaijanis living in Russia, arrived in Azerbaijan in 2018 to visit his relatives, he was detained by officers of the most notorious body of the Ministry of Internal Affairs – the Main Department for Combating Organized Crime. S. Rustamov was detained secretly for a long time, his relatives were not informed about his condition, his access to an advocate was blocked, and he was subjected to horrific torture to make confessions against the oppositionists.

Rustamov was initially accused of drug crimes, which the Azerbaijani government uses to reduce its rivals to silence and punish them. During the investigation, he was accused of another fake crime – organizing a criminal organization and engaging in illegal business activities. The results of the investigation, which was accompanied by irregularities, were confirmed by the courts. S. Rustamov was sentenced to 7 years and 3 months in prison with illegal and unfounded sentences, and His and all his family members’ legal properties, as well as his father’s property where he was born and raised, were confiscated. The illegality and political approach continued in the higher courts, the decision was not overturned, only the Supreme Court reduced his sentence by 2 months.

Rustamov, who went on a hunger strike 30 days ago to protest against the lawlessness he faced and was expected to be placed under medical supervision at that time but was placed in a solitary confinement cell for 4 days, is currently on hunger strike. The hunger strike brings a citizen, who has not been proven guilty of any crime and was imprisoned as a result of political order, closer to death every day. S. Rustamov has lost 15 kg, has become weak, has had difficulty walking, standing, and talking. He has not been provided with a quality medical examination, and formal examinations are ineffective.

The case of S. Rustamov, one of the worst examples of the policy of the Azerbaijani government to eliminate and subdue its rivals, is met with serious concern by the whole society that wants democratization and a prosperous future for the country. This concern was expressed during a peaceful rally in Baku on December 1 to protest against the lawlessness against S. Rustamov. Unfortunately, the police ruthlessly intervened in this action, which was calling on the government to refrain from illegal actions and wrongdoings. More than 40 citizens peacefully exercising their rights enshrined in national laws and international treaties to which Azerbaijan is a party were detained and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, and 5 people were arrested for administrative violations. Several detainees were subjected to unjustified physical torture. Tofig Yagublu, one of the leaders of an opposition party, who was repeatedly punished for his critical position in the past, was brutally tortured at the police station, and then in a police car. The politician, who was taken to the outskirts of Baku, was horribly tortured by unidentified officials who demanded that he stop his political activities and was left helpless on the outskirts of the city at night despite his critical health condition. Another oppositionist, Pasha Dadashzade, a member of the APFP, was brutally beaten by police, and his arm was broken in several places.

The series of lawlessness faced by S. Rustamov and the ruthless treatment of people who want this lawlessness to be eliminated and express it by exercising their legal rights are the main source of concern for the civil society representatives who signed this letter. The death of a man who has been imprisoned for years on trumped-up charges due to his political thinking and views would be one of the most serious wounds inflicted not only on the progress of the Azerbaijani society and the desire to become one of the exemplary members of the European family but also on the establishment and internalization of universal values. Unfortunately, the efforts of Azerbaijani civil society, which has been subjected to illegal, unjust pressure and attacks by the government for years, are not enough to prevent such wounds. For the sake of universal values not to be seriously wounded, we ask all progressive institutions, countries, individuals, as well as You, to spare no effort in this regard, to remind the Government of Azerbaijan of its commitment to ensure fundamental human rights and to take all possible steps that may be useful in eliminating the consequences of the illegalities to which S. Rustamov was subjected.

Sincerely yours,


Abulfaz Gurbanli – Founder of Article 54 Public Union

Afgan Mukhtarli- Journalist

Ahmad Mammadli – Chairperson of D18 Movement

Akif Gurbanov – Chairperson, Institute for Democratic Initiatives

Alasgar Mammadli- Lawyer

Alayif Hasanov-  Lawyer

Alya Yagublu – Journalist

Anar Mammadli – Chairperson, EMDS

Anar Orujov – Kanal13

Annaghi Hajibeyli- Lawyer

Asabali Mustafayev- President, Democracy and Human Rights Resource Center

Aykhan Hajibayli – Political Activist

Aynur Elgunesh- Journalist

Azer Gasimli- Director, IPM – Institute of Political Management

Azer Mehdiyev- Chairperson, Support to Economic Initiatives PU

Bahruz Bayramov- Lawyer, Member of Bar Association

Bakhtiyar Hajiyev – Director, Public Policy Institute

Bashir Suleymanli – Chairperson, Institute for Citizens Rights (ICR)/Azerbaijan

Elchin Sadigov-Lawyer, Member of Bar Association

Elman Fattah-  Political columnist

Elmir Abbasov- Board Member, Nida Civic Movement

Elnur Astanbeyli- Journalist- writer

Farid Imanov – Chairperson of Student Power Center; Board Member of D18 Movement

Fariz Namazli – Lawyer, member of Bar Association

Fikrat Jafarli – Chairperson, Center for Investigations against Torture

Fuad Ahmadli – Co-founder, Center for Defense of the Rights of Political Prisoners and VIctims of Torture

Gabil Abbasoglu – Editor in Chief, Baku Press Club

Galib Bayramov – Chairperson, Economic Research Center

Ganimat Zahid – Editor in Chief, “Azadliq” newspaper; General Director, Turan TV

Gular Abbasli – Activist

Hafiz Babali – Journalist, TURAN News Agency

Ilgar Huseynli – President of Social Strategic Researches and Analytical Investigations Public Union

Ilham Huseynli – Chairperson, Democratic Development and Economic Corporation Public Union

Ilkin Rustamzada- Blogger, Human Rights activist

Imran Aliyev – Founder,

Inara Manafova – Lawyer

Intigam Aliyev – Lawyer

Jasur Mammadov-Director, Caspian Military Research Institute

Javad Javadov- Lawyer, Member of Bar Association

Kamran Mahmudov – Freelancer journalist

Khadija Ismail- Investigative journalist

Khalid Aghaliyev – Media Rights Group

Khalid Baghirov- Lawyer

Mehman Aliyev- Director, Turan Media Agency

Mehman Huseynov – Director, Sancaq Media Group, Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety

Mete Turksoy- Political Activist

Mirali Huseynov – Chairperson, Democracy Learning Public Union

Namiq Abdullayev – Board member, Institute for Democratic Initiatives

Namized Safarov- Lawyer

Nasimi Mammadli- Chairperson, Broadcast Monitoring Center

Nemat Karimli- Lawyer, Member of Bar Association

Nigar Hazi- Political Activist

Rasul Jafarov – Chairperson, Baku Human Rights Club

Rovshan Aghayev- Deputy, Support to Economic Initiatives PU

Rovshan Hajibeyli- Editor,  “ Azadliq” newspaper

Rufat Safarov – Cofounder, Defense Line Human Rights Organization

Ruslan Izzatli- Political Activist

Samad Rahimli – Human Rights lawyer

Samed Rahimli- Human Rights Lawyer

Samir Aliyev- Board Member, Support to Economic Initiatives PU

Samir Kazimli – Human rights defender

Samira Gasimli – Editor-in-chief, RLC TV

Sevinj Abbasova – Reporter, Meydan TV

Shahin Jafarli – Political columnist

Shahla Humbatova – Lawyer

Shahveled Chobanoglu- Journalist

Shamshad Agha – Journalist, Toplum TV

Toghrul Ismayilov – Civic activist

Toghrul Valiyev – Economist

Ulvi Hasanli – Activist,  Nida Civic Movement

Vasif Ismayil – Doctor, Azerbaijan Medical University

Yadigar Sadiqli- Historian

Yalchin Imanov- Lawyer

Zafar Ahmadov –  Co-founder,  “Defense Line” Human rights Organisation

Zaur Akbar – Co-founder, “Defense Line” Human Rights Organization

Zibeyda Sadiqova-  Lawyer, Member of Bar Association

Ziya Guliyev – Founder, Law Society of Azerbaijan

Zohrab Ismayil – Public Association for Assistance to Free Economy