President Ilham Aliyev is notorious for his hardline approach towards free expression in Azerbaijan and I have written here before about attacks on dissident voices and the media. Members of the opposition and critical journalists face immense obstacles and hardship when trying to carry out their work. Many suffer death threats, surveillance, judicial harassment and violence. Despite the welcome release of some political prisoners in March 2016, dozens of journalists and activists remain behind bars for exercising their right to free expression.
These include 35-year-old writer and blogger Rashad Ramazanov (who writes under the name of Rashad Haqiqat Agaddin), who is serving nine years in prison after being convicted on trumped-up charges of ‘illegal possession and sale of drugs’. Ramazanov is well known for his anti-government posts, and PEN considers the charges against him to be politically motivated. The Azerbaijani authorities often use spurious charges of drugs or firearms possession, ‘hooliganism’ or tax evasion to arrest and imprison critical writers and journalists.
Ramazanov is a graduate of Baku State University and holds a master’s degree in ecology. He also has a PhD in philosophy, sociology and law from the National Sciences Academy of Azerbaijan.