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Azerbaijan

Yearbook 2018

Azerbaijan. In January, a leading opposition politician, Gözel Bayramli, was sentenced to three years in prison for currency smuggling. According to Bayramli, someone had invested thousands of dollars in her luggage. According to Countryaah.com, journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of smuggling, among other things. He had reported suspected corruption in the circle of President Ilham Aliyev.

2018 Azerbaijan

In February, it was announced that the presidential election would be scheduled from October to April. A constitutional amendment allowed Aliyev to run for re-election for a fourth term. The opposition protested that the electoral movement was suddenly shortened, and two parties boycotted the election which they considered to be settled. Before the election, the opposition in the capital Baku demonstrated, demanded the release of political prisoners, called for free elections and anti-corruption measures.

The election was won by Ilham Aliyev with 86% of the vote, according to official data, since the regime has in practice silenced all opponents. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), voters were given no real choice. Accusations of electoral fraud were rejected by the Election Commission.

After the presidential election, Parliament appointed a new prime minister, Novruz Mamedov, former adviser to President Aliyev.

In May, the President opened the first stage of 350 kilometers of gas pipelines to the EU via Turkey. The so-called southern gas corridor is intended to make Azerbaijan's export westward independent of pipelines through the Russian Federation. Critics say the project enriches Aliyev's circle and causes the West to close its eyes on the regime's abuse of human rights.

In June, the Supreme Court upheld a ban on Radio Free Europe's website and a two-year prison sentence against blogger Mehman Huseynov, who was sentenced for slander after his report of corruption in the regime.

During the summer, the regime intervened against a number of independent news sites through censorship and closure. In just over a year, more than 20 websites were blocked in the country.

In July, 14 people were sentenced to shorter prison sentences for online comments, including a nationwide power outage. The incident had been discussed on social media, where the government received harsh criticism.

According to a report by the Council of Europe, the Azerbaijani police are engaged in systematic torture with violence and corruption within the justice system. The prisons are overcrowded and have poor conditions. HRW called for zero tolerance against torture and prompt investigation of allegations of abuse. According to HRW, access to a lawyer is often denied, and complaints almost never lead to liability.

In August, an important agreement was signed on the legal status of the Caspian Sea between Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran. For the first time since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the coastal states agreed on how to regulate fishing water and the seabed.

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