Azerbaijan. The regime’s oppression of dissent continued and received widespread criticism from, among others, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner. At the same time, Azerbaijan during the year chaired the Council of Ministers of Europe.
According to human rights groups, about 145 political prisoners were held in Azerbaijani prisons at the beginning of the year, including bloggers and journalists. President and dictator Ilham Alijev, for his part, described the political opposition as “corrupt groups that sold their conscience for money from abroad”.
According to Countryaah.com, Azerbaijan population in 2020 is estimated at 10,139,188. A large number of political activists were sentenced to prison during the year. The most prominent were Ilgar Mammadov, leader of the Republican alternative, and Tofiq Yaqublu, deputy party leader of the opposition M邦savat. They were detained since last year’s presidential election and sentenced to seven and five years in prison, respectively, accused of organizing and participating in mass riots. According to the defense, the trial was a mockery of justice and the case was criticized by the EU and the US, among others.
Another political activist from M邦savat was sentenced to six years in prison accused of hooliganism, several members of the People’s Front were sentenced to prison, young activists from a democracy group received between six and eight years in prison, one convicted journalist and blogger stated that he was tortured in detention, others received several years in prison with charges of drug possession. According to Human Rights Watch, police are placing drugs at the home of opposition activists.
In April, a prominent regime-critical journalist was accused of spying for Armenia. Before French President François Hollande was to visit Azerbaijan in May, one of the toughest critics of the Azerbaijani regime, the leading human rights activist Leyla Yunus, was arrested, who should have met Hollande. She and her husband were then charged with treason and conspiracy with the Armenian Security Service after cooperating with Armenian peace activists.
During the summer, border fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces occurred at the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. At least 15 soldiers from both sides were killed.
An Azerbaijani investigative journalist reported during the year that TeliaSonera is suspected of indirect business relations with President Ilham Alijev’s family. TeliaSonera is a co-owner of the Azerbaijan mobile operator Azercell, but the largest share in the company is controlled via, among other things, Panama company by bulvanas for the dictator’s family, in this case two daughters of Alijev.
In October, the Azerbaijani opposition held a rally in Baku demanding the resignation of President Aliyev, approaching the EU and the release of imprisoned political activists. Authorities allowed the demonstration at an arena on the outskirts of the capital.
In November, Azerbaijani forces shot down an Armenian military helicopter from the Armenian enclave Nagorno-Karabakh. The crew was killed, and Azerbaijan closed the airspace over the area in an atmosphere of increased regional tension.