"Politically motivated at the behest of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev" -- that was how former Health Minister Ali Insanov described his five-week retrial, which ended on February 25 with the judge upholding the 11-year prison term handed down to Insanov in 2007.
The informal Olympics creed of “Not to win, but to take part” is exactly what Caspian-Sea energy power Azerbaijan wants out of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
All four of Azerbaijan’s Olympic team members – alpine skiers Gaia Bassani Antivari and Patrick Brachner, and ice-dancing pair Alexei Sitnikov and Yulia Zlobina -- are naturalized foreigners; the only such team in the Games.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was once dubbed corruption’s “Person of the Year” by an organization of investigative journalists. But to many Azerbaijani citizens, he is seen as more trustworthy than the courts, recent survey data shows.
In mid-November, an Azerbaijani court sentenced Rashad Ramazanov, an Islamist blogger, to nine years in prison on charges of drug possession. Two weeks earlier, Taleh Bagir-zade, a young and charismatic Shi’a cleric, received a two-year prison term after being convicted on similar charges.
Nearly 20 years after a ceasefire brought a halt to all-out warfare in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Azerbaijani government is still grappling with the challenge of accommodating the country’s 600,000 Internally Displaced Persons, without encouraging them to forget their former homes.
In the five weeks since incumbent Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was reelected for a third consecutive term, the authorities have cracked down on a prominent NGO, an opposition newspaper, and several bloggers, journalists, and academics in what Amnesty International’s John Dalhuisen has branded “[a] ruthless and relentless attack on any dissenting voices in the media.”
The only unanswered question heading into Azerbaijan’s presidential election October 9 was whether it would be perceived as the country’s first-ever “free-and-fair” vote. The suspense didn’t last long, as a torrent of reports about irregularities began pouring in long before polling stations closed.