In March, 2014 a court sentenced Ilgar Mammadov, a prominent political analyst and chairman of the opposition group REAL (Republican Alternative), to seven years in prison, and Tofig Yagublu, deputy chair of the opposition political party Musavat and a columnist with the opposition daily Yeni Musavat, to five years for allegedly instigating violence on January 24, 2013, in the Ismayilli district, a regional center northwest of Baku. Anti-government riots broke out in Ismayilli (http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/01/29/azerbaijan-ensure-rights-ismayilli-protesters) when a relative of the local governor drove his car into an electricity pole and started a fight with a taxi driver parked nearby. The next day, there were several clashes between...

On November 22, 2013, police arrested Abdul Abilov, 32, a social media activist and the administrator of the critical Facebook pages “Yaltaqlara dur deyək!” (“Stop those flattering the regime!”) and “Seçki saxtakarlığı” (“Election fraud”) in Baku on narcotics-related charges. Police claimed they found drugs both in Abilov’s pocket and in his home. Both Facebook pages were shut down shortly after police seized his computer during a search of his home. Abilov’s lawyer told Human Rights Watch that at his trial Abilov said that the drugs were planted and that during his interrogation police asked him questions only about his critical posts, political...

On May 17, 2013, Azerbaijani youth activist Ilkin Rustemzade was arrested on charges of hooliganism (http://www.rferl.org/content/azerbaijan-activist-harlem-shake/24989279.html) for his alleged involvement in at Harlem Shake video  filmed in the country’s capital city, Baku. The video (http://www.video.az/en/video/57711/harlem-shake-park-bulvar), which was uploaded to YouTube more than two months before his arrest, is completely apolitical, and Rustemzade does not even appear on-screen. The government claims that he helped film it, though his lawyer denies he was involved at all. Others who have made Harlem Shake videos in Baku—including members of a pro-government youth movement (http://www.ireli.az/en/activity/news/20130322120428769.html)—have not been punished. The real reason Rustemzade has been targeted is because of his...

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