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NEW LAWS MAY LEAVE AZERBAIJANIS WITHOUT LEGAL REPRESENTATION

The Azeri Times

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On 31 October, the Azerbaijani parliament passed a law banning non-Bar lawyers and lay practitioners from representing clients in court. Critics worry that restricting the right to defend clients in court exclusively to members of the Bar Association will deal a blow to the independence of the legal profession and deprive many people of representation.

On 6 October, the chairman of the Supreme Court proposed amendments to Azerbaijan’s civil and administrative procedural codes, as well as the law “On defense lawyers and defense lawyers’ activities.” The amendments ban non-Bar lawyers and lay practitioners from representing clients in civil and administrative proceedings, meaning that only members of the Bar Association could be involved in such cases.

On 31 October, the amendments were passed by a majority vote and are scheduled to go into effect on 1 December, 2017.

While the amendments were still being debated, a group of lawyers launched a campaign against the proposed amendments. The “Group of Practicing Lawyers” explained in a brief that in 2003-2004, after joining the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan agreed to amend the Bar Act to expand the role of non-Bar lawyers and lay practitioners in the courts. In a country where the Bar Association is heavily politicized, this system has allowed many human rights lawyers to continue their work despite government pressure.

Among the negative consequences these amendments are likely to have, the Group of Practicing Lawyers cites a “strong monopoly” of the “government-controlled” Bar Association, and a drastic decrease in the “number of available lawyers who can represent litigants before courts.”

“It’s not right to leave ordinary people without a representative,” said MP Zahid Oruj during parliamentary debates on 31 October. “Currently, there are about 100,000 civil cases in the courts. Without an increase in the number of defense lawyers, it will be difficult to implement this process.”

According to the Group of Practicing Lawyers, there are about 900 Bar Association lawyers in Azerbaijan, and only 200 of them work outside of Baku. That means that Baku has 9-10 lawyers per 100,000 inhabitants, as opposed to the European average of 165, over 16 times greater.

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Azerbaijan

Beaten to death at police station

The Azeri Times

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On 25 September, a resident of Gazakh in northwestern Azerbaijan, 37-year-old Elmir Mirza oghlu Akhundov, died at a local police station. According to his sister, Ulviyya Akhundova, he was beaten to death. Akhundova posted a series of photos showing her brother’s badly bruised body on Facebook.

The Azerbaijani Committee Against Torture told Open.az that, on the evening prior to his death, Akhundov had been in a fight with a member of a volunteer civilian law enforcement group called Public Police Support (Polisə İctimai Dəstək), in which Akhundov broke two of his opponent’s teeth. According to his sister, on the following day Akhundov was picked up by the police when he went out to buy cigarettes.

“As soon as I heard about it I went to the police department, but they wouldn’t let me in” Akhundova told Meydan TV. “A short time later an ambulance arrived. I asked what happened, but they wouldn’t tell me anything….They said somebody had had a brawl inside the police department and that was why the doctor had arrived. A short time later the hospital called to tell me that my brother had been beaten and killed and to ask me to come and take him away.”

According to Akhundova, her brother’s wrist, arm, hand, and leg were broken, and rocks were embedded in lacerations on his knees. She believes that her brother was beaten to death by the police, an accusation which the Gazakh district police department denies. Nevertheless, the Gazakh district prosecutor’s office has opened a criminal investigation into manslaughter and hooliganism.

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Azerbaijan

Special operation in Khachmaz: Terrorist neutralised

The Azeri Times

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The State Security Service (SSS) of Azerbaijan conducted a special operation, during which a member of a radical extremist group, who had been planning terrorist acts in the northern regions of the country, was killed. This is reported by the Centre for Public Relations of the State Security Service.

Information received that Najafov Nizami Adil oglu acquired weapons and explosives was confirmed as a result of investigations, after which the staff of the SSS and the prosecutor’s office started emergency measures.

As a result of the operation on disarming and bringing to justice Nizami Najafov, which took place on August 28 in Khachmaz district, the criminal refused to surrender and offered armed resistance by opening fire from a rifle.

As a result of the use of response fire from the staff of the SSS from service weapons Nizami Najafov was killed.

During the inspection of the scene near the body of Nizami Najafov, an AKSU assault rifle, ammunition to it, as well as an explosive device made by handicraft were discovered.

Operational and investigative measures are continuing.

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Criminal

Shadowy killings of participants of Ganja Protests continues long after the events

The Azeri Times

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According to the information by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, a resident of Ganja, Rahimov Muraz Chapay oglu, was killed during a special police operation. Police received a tip where the criminal was hiding.

According to officials, Rahimov ignored the repeated calls of the police to lay down his arms and surrender. Instead he opened fire on law enforcement officers. Police had to use service weapons, and during the response fire the offender was killed.

Rahimov is the 6th person killed during special police operations. So far 6 killed, 61 arrested and 12 declared wanted. Many criticize Government for using the Ganja events to go after the targeted religious groups. Some even speculate that the bloody protest was staged as a bait by the Government itself to go after the ones who would rise up against the regime.

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