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Arrest of Opposition Leader in Azerbaijan

(FILE) Qubad İbadoğlu

If convicted, Qubad Ibadoglu, chairperson of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Prosperity Party, faces up to 12 years in prison.

Arrest of Opposition Leader in Azerbaijan
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The United States is “closely following” the arrest in Azerbaijan of opposition leader Qubad Ibadoglu, said State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller.

Ibadoglu is an internationally known economist and chairperson of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Prosperity Party. For years he led a nongovernmental group that focused on public finance management, good governance, and transparency. In 2014, Azerbaijani authorities forcibly closed the organization.

Facing what observers say were politically motivated charges, in 2015 Ibadoglu left Azerbaijan and taught at academic institutions in the United States and Europe. He recently returned to Azerbaijan after helping to establish an organization in the United Kingdom to support study abroad for Azerbaijani youth. He announced that funds for the endeavor would be reclaimed from “money stolen from the Azerbaijani people and economy by the Azerbaijani government.”

Ibadoglu was arrested July 23 outside of Baku as he was driving to meet with young activists from his political party. The next day he was sentenced to three months and 26 days of pretrial detention and charged with the production, acquisition, or sale of counterfeit money. Authorities also accused him of being a supporter of Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Sunni cleric who leads a group the Turkish government claims is a terrorist organization. If convicted, Ibadoglu faces up to 12 years in prison. He denies all allegations against him.

In the State Department’s most recent report on human rights in Azerbaijan, “significant human rights issues” were noted, including systematic government corruption; arbitrary detention; politically motivated reprisal against individuals; and pervasive problems with the independence of the judiciary.

In commenting on Ibadoglu’s arrest and detention, State Department Spokesperson Miller said, “The United States remains strongly committed to advancing respects for human rights and fundamental freedoms. We urge Azerbaijan to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its citizens, including Qubad Ibadoglu, consistent with Azerbaijani’s own constitution and international obligations and commitments.”