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Azerbaijan: Freedom House Condemns Physical Assault of Lawyer Defending Journalist by Prison Officers
In response to allegations of a September 20 physical assault by prison officers against Nemat Karimli, an attorney in Azerbaijan, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“The violence against Nemat Karimli, who represents the journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, demonstrates the Azerbaijani government’s continued contempt for lawyers who defend political prisoners,” said Marc Behrendt, director for Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “In Azerbaijan, attorneys defending imprisoned journalists, activists, human rights defenders, and political dissidents are regularly subjected to abusive and denigrating treatment when entering and departing correctional facilities. Systematic searches of lawyers’ belongings and the review of confidential materials violate a core principle of lawyer-client confidentiality and deprive political prisoners of the right to equal access to justice and due process. Freedom House calls on the Azerbaijani government to immediately end the harassment and intimidation of lawyers and to release all prisoners incarcerated on politically motivated charges.”
On September 20, lawyer Nemat Karimli was thoroughly searched, including inside his socks and shoes, and threatened when he entered Prison No. 16 to meet with his client, journalist Afgan Mukhtarli. When Karimli asked for a search warrant, the guards stated that they did not need one to conduct a full search. The prison officials demanded to read Karimli’s notes. When the attorney refused, an official lifted him by the collar and pushed him to the wall. Karimli’s belongings were taken and his notes were reviewed, allegedly by Emin Eminaliyev, the deputy chief of the prison, who is known for abuse and enjoys complete impunity for violence against political prisoners. In 2017, Mukhtarli was abducted from Georgia, where he had been living in exile since 2014, and returned to Azerbaijan; he was sentenced to six years in prison in January 2018 on spurious charges. On April 23, 2018, one day before an appeal hearing on Mukhtarli’s case, the Bar Association of Azerbaijan suspended Karimli’s attorney license for one year following a complaint by the first deputy prosecutor general of Azerbaijan.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.