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Azerbaijan: Lawyer Elchin Sadigov is under preventive measure of house arrest and charged with “complicity in brive-taking”, with the risk of a 12-year prison sentence

December 17th, 2022

Mr. Sadigov is a prominent lawyer at the Bar Association of Azerbaijan. As part of his work, he defended the rights of political prisoners, journalists, media, political figures, activists, and LGBTQ+ persons.

According to our information, Mr. Sadigov was arrested together with a journalist Mr. Avaz Zeynalli, on 10 September, 2022. That same day, officers from the Prosecutor’s General’s Office searched Mr. Sadigov’s home and office, where they confiscated documents and his mobile phone. Mr. Sadigov was charged on 11 September, 2022, with “complicity in bribe-taking”. Mr. Sadigov is at risk of a sentence of 12 years in prison under article 311.3.3. of the Criminal code of Azerbaijan. Mr. Zeynalli was charged with “large-scale-bribe-taking”.

The Binagadi district court ordered the detention for two months and both Mr. Sadigov and Mr. Zeynalli were being held in the detention center of the State Security Service in Baku, while according to Azerbaijani legislation an arrestant should be awaiting trial in the pre-trial detention center. On 17 September, 2022, the pre-trial detention measure was replaced by a preventive measure of house arrest. This implies that Mr. Sadigov cannot leave the city of Baku while he defends human rights in all regions of Azerbaijan. Thus, the professional activity of Mr. Sadigov is limited.

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Sadigov  represented Rasim Mammadov, the former director of a local steel factory, currently on trial on allegations of embezzlement. On 7 September 2022, the Haqqin news agency published a web story about journalist Zeynalli, alleging that he had extorted 20,000 manats (approximately 11800 USD) from the family of Rasim Mammadov promising to stop negative coverage of the case in exchange for the money. In the article, Sadigov was alleged to be an intermediary in this deal.

The Observatory is concerned that the search by the Prosecutor’s Office of Elchin Sadigov’s home and office on 10 September, which led to the seizure of documents, was conducted in violation of legal professional privilege. The confidentiality of lawyer-client communications and lawyers’ files are protected under international human rights law as part of the right to a fair trial.

The Observatory is furthermore concerned that the detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Sadigov are connected to, and serve to unlawfully curb his legitimate activities as an attorney.

The Observatory recalls that the independence of lawyers is one of the main indicators of democratic health and the consolidation of the rule of law. This is in line with the provisions of the UN Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

Therefore, in accordance with the provisions of the UN Principles on the Role of Lawyers, in particular principles 16, 18 and 22 which state that

Principle 16: ” Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics. ”

Principle 18: ” Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”

Principle 22: ” Governments shall recognize and respect that all communications and consultations between lawyers and their clients within their professional relationship are confidential. “