Azerbaijan. The year began with harsh prison sentences
against regime opponents. In January, the People's Front
Vice-President Fuad Qahramanli was sentenced to ten years in
prison for his role in previous protests against the regime.
Countryaah.com, two leaders of the Muslim Unity Movement were sentenced to
20 years in prison each, charged with terrorism and urging
the regime to overthrow. Sixteen other activists were
sentenced to prison for between 14 and 19 years.
The convicted were innocent. According to the defense,
the charges were fabricated, and torture was reported to
have occurred during the hearings. Many arrested regime
critics were also awaiting trial. There were testimonies of
police brutality and how regime critics were excluded from
government jobs. The regime was also said to form the local
citizen guard with the mission of reporting signs of
During the year, one of the leaders of the opposition
party People's Front was also sentenced to imprisonment for
more than three years, accused of conspiring with the
volatile Turkish opposition leader Fethullah G邦len. In
December, twelve Islamists were sentenced to between 12 and
15 years in prison.
The repression of the opposition did not hinder President
Ilham Aliyev's business contacts with the EU. In February,
Alijev visited Brussels and received assurances about the
EU's interest in Azerbaijan's gas wealth, an alternative to
the Union's dependence on Russian gas. The parties discussed
new pipelines that are scheduled to deliver Azerbaijan gas
to EU countries in 2020.
After the trip to the EU, Alijev appointed his wife
Mehriban Alijeva as the first vice president, which the
opposition described as a return to medieval feudal
domination. Ilham Aliyev inherited the presidency of his
father and is believed to be planning to succeed his son.
Aliyev has been revealed with corruption in the billion
class, while the people are feeling the downturn of the
economy with low export prices of oil and currency
depreciation urged. GDP shrank by close to 4% in 2016. The
state energy company raised gas prices sharply in January,
and bread prices rose due to expensive wheat imports.
Several independent media were blocked on the Internet by
the regime, which got the measure approved in court. The
Azadliq newspaper, the TV channels Mejdan and Turin as well
as US-supported Radio Free Europe were among those affected.
The news agency Turan's manager was arrested and the agency
was forced to close down the business. Reporters Without
Borders demanded the release of an investigative journalist
who was kidnapped and jailed after reporting on the regime's
During the year, international media revealed that the
Azerbaijani regime paid big bribes to a number of European
politicians, journalists and others for defending Azerbaijan
against allegations of human rights violations.
In September, mass arrests of LGBT people took place. At
least 60 people were arrested and sentenced to prison or
fined, and many of them were beaten. Azerbaijan is
considered the worst country in Europe for LGBTQ people.
The Swedish company Bombardier Transportation was accused
during the year of bribing an Azerbaijani official for a
contract to install signal systems on the Azerbaijan
railways. A boss at Bombardier was indicted in August for
Struggles between Azerbaijan and the Armenian-backed
Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh continued. The International
Crime Prevention Group (ICG), during the year, noted that
the violence surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh has brought
neighboring countries Armenia and Azerbaijan closer to war
than ever since the ceasefire in 1994.
Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismajilova was one of the
recipients of the 2017 Right Livelihood Prize, but
authorities stopped her from traveling out of the country to
receive the award.