Rustam Usubov, Azerbaijan’s first deputy prosecutor general, has asked the Bar Association to take action against four attorneys. All four – Nemat Karimli, Asabali Mustafayev, Agil Layich and Fakhraddin Mehdiyev – have been involved in the defense of political prisoners.
According to one of the attorneys, Nemat Karimli, Usubov has accused them of circulating information that has “confused the public.” The complaint against Karimli is in regard to statements the lawyer is alleged to have made about the criminal proceedings against Afgan Mukhtarli and Tofig Yagublu. (Mukhtarli is an independent journalist who was kidnapped in Tbilisi, Georgia, and transported to Baku where he currently awaits trial. Yagublu, adviser to the opposition Musavat Party chairman, served two years of a five-year prison sentence after the Ismayilli riots in 2013. He was pardoned by presidential order in 2016.)
“Rustam Usubov’s complaint doesn’t contain any facts,” Karimli told Meydan TV. “I visited the Disciplinary Commission of the Bar Association on 16 November. They requested an explanation. I told them I found it unnecessary for me to comment on this matter for the reason that no evidence had been provided.”.
Asabali Mustafayev said that he was the attorney for Gozal Bayramli, imprisoned deputy chair of the opposition People’s Front of Azerbaijan Party, and that it was for this reason that a complaint had been filed against him. “They allege that we, as attorneys, have become politicized and circulate investigation secrets,” Mustafayev said. “We have submitted an explanation about this to the Bar, saying that this is not the case.”
Attorney Agil Layich says that the complaints filed against him and Fakhraddin Mehdiyev were related to the case of Jahangir Hajiyev, former Chairman of the Board of the International Bank of Azerbaijan, currently serving a prison sentence for fraud, embezzlement, and the misappropriation of public funds.
“The complaint alleges that I had passed information to Heydar Oghuz, the editor of Ovqat.az [actually Ovqat.com, ed.], regarding the investigation,” Layich says. The lawyer denies the accusation, and goes on to point out that the information given to Ovqat.az was incorrect. “Another thing is that the court has already ruled on Jahangir Hajiyev’s case and there can be no talk of confidentiality of investigation in this context.”
Layich says he provided an explanation to the Prosecutor General’s Office as well as the Bar Association.
Most complaints filed about attorneys result in them being suspended from the Bar. According to the law, following these kinds of appeals, an attorney may be given an official warning or even removed from the Bar.
Earlier, the Justice Ministry’s Penitentiary Service had filed a complaint about attorney Yalchin Imanov, while a judge at the Shaki Court for Serious Crimes had filed a complaint about attorney Elchin Sadigov. Both complaints were sent to the Bar. Imanov had publicized “Nardaran prisoner” Abbas Huseynov’s complaint about torture. The complaint about the attorney alleges that Imanov seeks to disrupt stability by circulating information that cites his client as saying that he was tortured.
“He creates favorable conditions for an intensification in the activities of forces that are jealous of the country’s development and has a negative impact on the morale of staff at the Penitentiary Service,” the complaint says.
Judge R. Huseynov said that attorney Sadigov artificially made it look like journalist Elchin Ismayilli’s right to defense was violated during his trial and that Sadigov sought to impede the legal proceedings.
In the past few years, several well-known attorneys in the country – Elchin Namazov, Aslan Ismayilov, Khalid Bagirov, Muzaffar Bakhishov and others – have been suspended from the Bar after similar complaints were filed.