In December 2021, Azerbaijan’s General Prosecutor’s Office created a new working group to investigate the Tartar case, the country’s most notorious torture series case in which hundreds of Azerbaijani soldiers were tortured and accused of espionage. General Prosecutor Kamran Aliyev took special control of the investigation, according to the December statement, and his first Deputy Elchin Mammadov was instructed to lead the new investigation. The General Prosecutor’s Office did not reveal the names of other members of the working group, but noted that they were from different law enforcement agencies, namely the General Prosecutor’s Office, Ministry of Internal Affairs and State Security Service.
The work of the new investigation
The investigation group was instructed to investigate all the details of the torture cases, interrogate all the people involved and produce objective results. The group invited the alleged victims of the Tartar case – tortured servicemen – to the General Prosecutor’s Office for questioning.
- Court rulings on criminal cases of 16 people, who were first arrested on charges of high treason but then convicted of crimes against military service were overturned due to insufficient evidence. In addition, appeals were filed to overturn decisions on cases of another 10 such people.
- 11 officers accused of torture were imprisoned under articles 145.3 (illegal deprivation of freedom), 293.2 (torture; cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment), 341.2.2 (abusing official authority), 341.2. 3 and 128 (intentional minor damage to health).
- According to the decision of the Ganja Court of Appeal in the reconsidered process, the terms of imprisonment for Gurban Jumshudov and Javid Agadadashov, officers accused of torture, were increased from 5 years and 3 months to 6 years. The terms of imprisonment of another convict, Fuad Agayev, remained at 10 years.
- Polad Azizov, Elchin Aliyev, Sanan Mashiyev, Jabir Gahramanov and Ruslan Mikayilov, who were previously arrested in connection with the case and later released, were re-arrested after the new investigation of the group. Polad Azizov is currently on the wanted list for hiding from the investigation.
Those who gave orders
Nemat Maharramov, who reported facing 54 days of violence during the Tartar events, said he was arrested in May 2017 in Shikharkh settlement. According to Maharramov, his torture was carried out by personal order of Major General Hikmet Hasanov, then-Commander of the 1st Army Corps, and carried out by Major General Hasanov himself and his cousin Maharram Hasanov.
Three of the men accused of torturing the servicemen – Major Fuad Agayev, legal assistant to the commander of the military unit, Major General Gurban Jumshudov and Junior Sergeant Javid Agadadashov – had partially agreed in the court to the charges against them and admitted to torturing the servicemen. They stressed that they acted on the instructions of Major General Hikmet Hasanov.
Hikmet Hasanov has not yet commented on the Tartar case or his participation in these events. He was the commander of the 1st Army Corps during the events in Tartar (2017), and after the 44-day war (in August 2021) he was relieved of his post as the corps commander and appointed as the Deputy Chief of the Military Academy.
Victims and acquitted
According to the victims and human rights defenders, 25 people currently remain in prison on charges of treason. However, it was not taken into account that they gave testimony under torture. The World Organization Against Torture issued a statement on April 13, 2021, stating that 11 people had died as a result of torture in the Tartar case.
- After the work of the new investigation group, 280 more people were identified as victims of torture. A total of 397 people have been identified as victims of torture so far, including those identified as victims during the previous investigation.
- 28-year-old officer Elchin Matlab oglu Guliyev, who died as a result of torture, was acquitted in January 2021. The decision was presented to the mother of the deceased, Valida Ahmadova, on February 7.
Families’ protests and demands
The victims and their families have been protesting at various times expressing their dissatisfaction with the new investigation. One of their protests took place on June 16 in front of the building of the Military Prosecutor’s Office. The protesters expressed their dissatisfaction with the activities of the new investigation group and put forward their demands.
What are the demands:
- Resignation of Military Prosecutor Khanlar Valiyev;
- Abolition of the Military Prosecutor’s Office;
- Release of servicemen arrested on treason charges without evidence;
- Consideration of complaints of acquitted servicemen, payment of compensation for the damages.
One of the protesters, Tarana Safarsoy, said that if no official statement was made about the torture and death, those in power should also resign.
If they fail, let them hand over the state to the people. We will have our say in the streets until these cases are investigated.Tarana Safarsoy
One of the former servicemen who took part in the protest said that he was tortured and arrested during the events in Tartar and his sentence was later overturned.
We want those who tortured us to be punished. They do not review our complaintsOfficer
He said he wanted their voices to be heard.
As in previous protests, neither Khanlar Valiyev nor other officials met with the protesters.