Washington, DC – Freedom Now welcomes the release of opposition politician Ilgar Mammadov from wrongful detention in Azerbaijan. Mammadov was granted conditional release on August 13 by the Sheki Court of Appeals after serving five and a half years of a seven year prison sentence. He remains under probation for two years and is subject to a travel ban.

“The politically-motivated imprisonment of Ilgar Mammadov has cast a dark shadow for more than five years on the Azerbaijani government, which has ignored multiple rulings by the European Court of Human Rights and numerous calls from other governments, including those from which it desires deeper economic ties,” said Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner. “We are grateful that Ilgar is finally free, but point out that the imposition of probation and a travel ban is unlawful under international law. We call for the government to quash his conviction fully and to lift the travel ban or it may face further sanction by the Council of Europe.”

Ilgar Mammadov is the leader of the Republican Alternative (REAL) opposition party and an active blogger. Prior to his arrest, he announced his intention to run in the 2013 presidential elections. On January 24, 2013, Mammadov traveled with colleagues to the Ismayilli region to investigate claims of excessive force used by the Azerbaijani government to quell rioting. Mammadov wrote about his experience in a blog post, where he placed ultimate responsibility for the unrest on the authorities and contradicted some official claims. He was arrested on February 3, 2013 and charged with organizing or participating in a breach of public order, resisting arrest, and mass disorder. He was convicted on March 17, 2014 and sentenced to seven years in prison.

In October 2014, the European Court of Human Rights held that Azerbaijan had violated a number of Mammadov’s human rights and determined the government acted out of political motivations in arresting and imprisoning him. In a subsequent ruling in November 2017, the Court found that Azerbaijan violated Mammadov’s right to a fair trial and again ordered his release and compensation to be paid. In December 2017, the Council of Europe began infringement proceedings against Azerbaijan for refusing to comply with the first judgment.

Local activists have documented more than 140 prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan, including human rights defenders, political opposition leaders, civil society leaders, religious activists, and journalists. Since 2011, Freedom Now has campaigned for the release of 21 prisoners of conscience in the country, including journalist Khadija Ismayilova, human rights activist Rasul Jafarov, lawyer Intigam Aliyev, and civil society leaders Leyla and Arif Yunus – all of whom have been released. In addition to advocacy, Freedom Now has produced in-depth reports on the domestic laws used by Azerbaijan to undertake its crackdown on civil society and transnational repression in neighboring Georgia.