World

These Activists Are Set To Spend Ten Years In Jail After Spray Painting A Statue

Azeri activists Giyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov were arrested on what Amnesty International calls trumped up drug charges after tagging a statue of Azerbaijan’s former president with graffiti.

1. Bayram Mammadov, a 21-year-old activist, was sentenced on Thursday to ten years in prison after spray-painting messages on a statue that criticized the regime in Azerbaijan.

2. He now joins Giyas Ibrahimov, 22, who in October was also sentenced to ten years behind bars under the same charges.

3. On May 9, Ibrahimov and Mammadov tagged a statue of former president Heydar Aliyev, father of current president Ilham Aliyev, in the capital city of Baku.

The following day — the former president’s birthday — has been celebrated since 2004 as “The Festival of Flowers.”

4. The additions to the statue read “Fuck the System” in English and “Congratulations on Slaves´ Day” in Azeri, both accompanied with the anarchist “A” symbol.

The Azeri inscription is a pun: “gul” in Azeri means flower, while “qul” means slave.

5. The two young men — both members of NIDA, a pro-democracy movement — were arrested the next day on drug charges, according to Amnesty International, but were only questioned about the graffiti.

On May 17, Mammadov’s lawyer wrote on Facebook that his client had been subjected to torture while in police custody, posting a picture of what he claimed to be a handwritten letter from Mammadov.

“They brought me to the office of the chief officer, where there were 7-8 officers in civilian clothes,” the letter reads. “They immediately began punching, slapping and kicking me and asking me why I had taken pictures of the graffiti, who was my associate and so on. However, I was not able to answer their questions as I lost my hearing and shortly thereafter lost consciousness.”

The letter went on to say that Mammadov signed a confession presented to him to end the beatings.

6. Azerbaijan’s Grave Crimes Court on Tuesday sentenced Ibrahimov to ten years in prison for drug possession, a sentence that Amnesty International says is an outrage.

“It is deeply disturbing to see the lengths to which Azerbaijani authorities will go to silence their critics,” Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, said in a statement in October.

Following Mammadov’s sentencing, the organization put out a new statement saying that the Azerbaijani government continues “to show utter contempt to freedom of expression, and seem so determined to silence every last critic that they are willing to trample on the truth.”

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Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.
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