According to information derived from the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) – currently based in the Netherlands and run by human rights defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus - on February 18th 2017, twelve people were brought to the police station of Surakhani district in Baku. All twelve are from one family and are between the ages of 2 and 67 years old. According to the Institute they were beaten and tortured.
The family are relatives of Ordukhan Babirov who lives in the Netherlands since 2003 and has been a citizen of the Netherlands since 2005. He has become very active on social media such as Facebook with messages directed against the human right violations in Azerbaijan. In these messages he criticizes the policies of president Ilham Aliyev. IPD believes that because the Azerbaijani government cannot arrest citizens of the Netherlands they decided to use his family members as hostages and torture them.
Four sisters and two of Babirov’s borthers live with their families in Baku. In 2016 police officers visited their homes and urged them that Babirov has to close his Facebook account. The officers also threatened to destroy the graves of his parents. Moreover, in November 2016 one of Babirov’s sisters was arrested and detained for a day at the police station even though she hardly has contact with him because of fear of reprisals.
Eventually twelve of Babirov’s relatives were brought to the police station presumably because he took party in a demonstration for the freedom of Azerbaijan political prisoners in Cologne, Germany. On that same day he was informed that his family had been arrested and he was able to hear how his family was being beaten while being on the phone with the police station in Baku.
Two days after they were arrested, 10 family members were released, and only Babirov’s brother and nephew have been kept. IPD reports that it later emerged that they were sentenced to 30 days of administrative arrest, for ‘disobeying police.’ This is just one example of many that happen in Azerbaijan. For example, on July 20th 2015, Rufat Zahidov and Rovshan Zahidoc, the brother and nephew of Ganimat Zahid, who created the independent TV “Azerbaijan hours” in France were arrested. On June 28th 2016, they were both sentenced to 6 years of imprisonment.
IPD calls for public attention to such practices in a country that is a member of the Council of Europe.