Azerbaijan. At the beginning of the year, the regime was subjected to international pressure to release blogger Mehman Huseynov, who was convicted of reporting corruption in the presidential family. New indictments had been added to Huseynov’s case; he was accused of attacking a guard in prison and was thus threatened by another seven years in prison. The European Parliament urged the regime to close the new prosecution and release Huseynov. In the capital Baku, thousands of protesters gathered demanding Huseynov’s release and scanned “down with the dictatorship”.
After three days, the prosecutor’s office announced that the new prosecution had been discontinued, and in March Huseynov was released after serving the two-year sentence. According to an Azerbaijani human rights group, 150 political prisoners were still in Azerbaijani prisons.
A couple of weeks later, an amnesty was announced for over 400 prisoners, of whom about 50 were reported to be sentenced for political reasons. Among those released were several opposition politicians, including former Health Minister Ali Insanov. He was considered a possible rival to President Ilham Aliyev for power and had been imprisoned for over a decade accused of embezzlement and bribery, which he denied.
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Several members of the opposition youth movement Nida were also released, as was the journalist Fikrat Faramazoglu. He was sentenced to seven years in prison after reporting corruption within the police. Faramazoglu stated that he was tortured in prison.
The EU welcomed the Alijev regime’s decision on amnesty, expected more political prisoners to be released and declared that it wanted to expand cooperation with Azerbaijan on human rights.
The international organization Ilka ranked Azerbaijan the worst in Europe in terms of rights for sexual minorities. Ilka’s index is based, among other things, on gender equality in labor and marriage legislation.
In May, the Europa League final was played in football in Baku between the English teams Arsenal and Chelsea. The match was not the PR success that the Azerbaijani regime had hoped for. International focus was directed at Arsenal’s Armenian big star Henrich Mchitarjan, who felt that the Azerbaijani authorities could not guarantee his security. He therefore stayed in London.
In October, Prime Minister Novruz Mamedov resigned surprisingly. On the same day, President Ilham Aliyev nominated his ally and adviser Ali Asadov as new head of government. This was unanimously approved by Parliament.
Opposition umbrella organization The National Council for Democratic Forces held several protests in Baku in October demanding freedom of assembly, release of political prisoners and lower gas and electricity prices. The police violently intervened and many protesters were detained, including opposition leader Ali Kerimli. Internet was shut down and subway stations were blocked off to stop protesters. New protests against women’s oppression were also stopped by police. Human Rights Watch criticized the regime for not allowing peaceful rallies and demanded that detainees be released and police violence investigated.
In December Parliament was dissolved and elections were announced until February 2020.
According to CountryAAH, the population of Azerbaijan in 2019 was 10,047,607, ranking number 90 in the world. The population growth rate was 0.990% yearly, and the population density was 121.5577 people per km2.