Hunger Strike Gains Momentum in Azerbaijan

More than a dozen political prisoners and activists have joined a solidarity hunger strike, calling attention to the imprisoned anti-corruption journalist Mehman Huseynov in Azerbaijan, who has refused food for three weeks.

Huseynov, 29, launched his hunger strike on Dec. 26 when more absurd charges were brought against him that could keep him imprisoned for seven more years. The journalist was supposed to be released in March of last year, but more politically motivated charges were brought against him.

Among his supporters are the prominent Azerbaijani reporter Khadija Ismayilova, who announced on Facebook that she would begin a solidarity hunger strike, calling on the international community to intervene on Heseynov’s behalf. Human rights advocates say the solidarity hunger strike is unprecedented for Azerbaijan.

Huseynov’s brother, Emin Huseynov said “All well-known human rights defenders and journalists spend at least one or two years in prison.”

Human rights abuses and corruption are commonplace in Azerbaijan. President Ilham Aliyev is a despot. He succeeded his father more than a decade ago, and subsequently abolished term limits and appointed his wife as vice president, establishing a monarchy in the country.

There are more than 100 political prisoners in the country.

Last year, journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was abducted in neighboring Georgia and taken to Azerbaijan where he was sentenced to six years for smuggling and illegally crossing the border.

At least 10 members of the US Congress were taken on all expenses paid trips and given lavish gifts funded by the state-run oil company. An ethics report on the matter claimed the funds for the trips were laundered through nonprofits in the United States to conceal their real origin.

A letter signed by four political prisoners involved in the hunger strike warned other political prisoners about waiting for help from the West. “Western organizations have put all principles and values on sale in Azerbaijan,” the letter read.



Photo of Mehman Huseynov via Twitter