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Azerbaijan: Presidential Elections 2003

Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper, October 13, 2003

Arbitrary Arrests of Opposition Members

Police have also arrested some opposition leaders and held them for days in incommunicado detention in order to secretly interrogate them. Human Rights Watch has documented two cases in which opposition leaders were abducted by plainclothes officials, detained for days, beaten, and questioned; police did not inform relatives of their whereabouts. Both cases took place in early September and involved the Ministry of Internal Affairs' Organized Crime Unit.

On September 5, Taliat Aliev, a member of the ADP's political council and an alternate member of the CEC, was abducted by plainclothes officials as he made his way home from the ADP office. He was taken to the offices of the Organized Crime Unit, where the chief of the criminal investigation department accused him of organizing armed groups within ADP. The next day, he was taken to the Nariman District Court and accused of resisting arrest in a different district of Baku from where he was actually arrested, a patently false charge. The judge ignored his protests and sentenced him to seven days of detention. As with Guliev, he was taken back to the Organized Crime Unit, where he was regularly beaten by the chief of the investigation department and the head of the Banditry Unit. According to Aliev, the latter several times took out his gun during interrogations and threatened to shoot him unless he confessed. The detention was kept secret, and it took the ADP four days to finally locate Aliev. Aliev's treatment improved after the ADP located him, but as he was about to be released, the chief of the Banditry Unit warned Aliev not to discuss his treatment, threatening that he would "have a car accident" if he did so. Immediately after his release, Aliev gave a press conference to denounce his treatment.42

On September 6, officials in civilian dress abducted Gabir Rzayev, the deputy chief of the UMID opposition party (which supports the candidacy of Musavat leader Isa Gambar) and a former riot police officer while he was shopping with his wife in Sumgait, a town close to Baku. He was taken first to the Organized Crime Unit's offices, and then to the Narimanov District Court, where he was falsely accused of making a public disturbance in Baku-even though he had been arrested in Sumgait-and sentenced to five days of detention. When he tried to explain that the charges against him were false, six officers took him out of the courtroom and started kicking him. Like the other men, he was taken back to the Organized Crime Unit, where he was accused of organizing armed groups for UMID and Musavat, and organizing a coup d'etat. When he refused to sign a confession, he was beaten by a group of officers. Everyday, he was interrogated by a colonel who worked in the investigative office. For four days, no one knew about his whereabouts until his relatives finally went to the Narimanov District Court and located him.43

42 Human Rights Watch interview with Taliyat Aliev, October 6, 2003.

43 Human Rights Watch interview with Gabir Rzayev, October 6, 2003.

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October 13, 2003