Prominent Azerbaijani jailed activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev is on the 50th day of his hunger strike, which he launched in protest to his arrest. Hajiyev lost considerable amount of weight and his health deteriorated, while Baku court prolonged his arrest, and his old private conversations are being exposed in an attempt to discredit him.
How did it start?
Hajiyev, political activist and former candidate for parliament, was arrested on December 9, 2022, on charges of hooliganism and contempt of court in relation to a non-political court case that dates back to more than a year ago. Via a leaked footage, in a court hearing from October 2021, Hajiyev is seen punching documents at his hand on his opponent’s table. Hajiyev was sentenced to a month and twenty days of pre-trial detention, after which his sentence was prolonged twice. Most recently, Baku court ruled to hold Hajiyev in jail until April 28, while repeatedly denying motions by his lawyers to release him into house arrest. If found guilty, a prison term of two to five years awaits Hajiyev.
This is not Hajiyev’s first hunger strike since his detention. He also went on hunger strike on December 15 and ended it after two weeks, “taking into account requests of his family, public, and lawyers,” he told his lawyers.
Hajiyev started his second hunger strike on January 8. On February 10, he was transferred to the Treatment Center of Penitentiary Service against his will. On February 14, his lawyers reported that Hajiyev lost 16 kilograms, his blood pressure dropped, and he has dizziness.
Two days later, Agil Layic, one of the lawyers, reported that Hajiyev stopped drinking water, too. But after five days he resumed drinking.
From February 20 on, Hajiyev isn’t able to walk and uses wheelchair.
On February 25, Zibeyda Sadigova, another of Hajiyev’s lawyers, said that her client lost 20 kilograms, feels pain in his heart and has sleep disorder. She also quoted Hajiyev as saying that he vows to continue his hunger strike.
Campaign against Hajiyev
Meanwhile, virtual attack on Hajiyev has been launched by unknown people, who Hajiyev’s supporters claim are acting on government’s orders, on social media. They hacked Hajiyev’s Facebook account and are exposing his old, private interactions with different people with intimate content on a Telegram group.
Most of the people, whose private conversations with Hajiyev are exposed, are women, some of them activists too, and their intimate footage, without their faces hidden, are published on the Telegram channel, too.
Feminist activist Gulnara Mehdiyeva wrote on Facebook that the government was “endangering the lives of many women” in the campaign against Hajiyev.
The government of Azerbaijan is so dirty that while trying to “overthrow” its opponent, it also intends to destroy the lives of many women at the same time. For this government, the life and blood of its citizens have no valueshe said.
His lawyers reported that Hajiyev hasn’t yet been informed of the campaign against him, considering his deteriorating physical and mental health.
Many opposition figures and independent rights defenders are convinced that the campaign is to discredit Hajiyev and deter attention away from his hunger strike. Hajiyev receives international support, too.
On February 24, former U.S. State Secretary and current Senator Hillary Clinton tweeted about Hajiyev.
I add my voice to the chorus of people and institutions expressing concern for Azerbaijani activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev. He’s on hunger strike to protest his detention since December on politically-motivated charges, and his condition is deteriorating. The world is watching.Hillary Clinton
Previously, the U.S. State Department called on Azerbaijani government to release Hajiyev from jail.