Azerbaijan handed over ten–year jail terms to two graffiti activists, who tried to fulfill their right to freedom of expression. Much of the graffiti involved words and symbols related to The Aliyev family that has ruled Azerbaijan since and before independence in 1991. It is also seen as one of the most thoroughly corrupt political class in the former Soviet Union.
President Heydar Aliyev’s has been seen as a patriarch and a de facto state symbol and is compared with modern Turkey’s founder Kemal Ataturk. President Heydar Aliyev and his son Ilham Aliyev, have headed the New Azerbaijan Party and have been autocratic rulers.
Baku’s Court of Grave Crimes in Azerbaijan has given a ten–year sentence to Bayram Mammadov. He was arrested for spraying graffiti making fun of the lavish expenditures for the former president’s annual birthday celebration. Arrested on charges of having eight grams of heroin, many believe the charges were made up to ensure Mammadov is sent to prison. Police officials repeatedly asked him to apologize for insulting former President Heydar Aliyev, while he was subject to beating when he refused to do so.
Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, Denis Krivosheev said, “Bayram Mammadov was arrested for painting a slogan on a statue, and was later tortured into ‘confessing’ to serious drug crimes. The charges against him were clearly fabricated with the sole purpose of punishing him for his activism. This outrageously long sentence following already prolonged, unnecessary and arbitrary detention are a blow to all peaceful activists in Azerbaijan.” Krivosheev seeks an independent investigation into the torture and arrest of Mammadov.
Azerbaijan had also detained and arrested 22-year-old Giyas Ibrahimov, in May 2016. He was identified with Mammadov through CCTV footage while painting graffiti on the Heydar Aliyev statue. The graffiti said: “Happy Slave Day” in Azeri, depicting words for “Happy Flower Day” celebrated as Flower Day or Heydar Aliyev’s birthday since 2009 in Azerbaijan.