Torture fears for Azerbaijani musicians after band insults president’s mother

Claims Azerbaijani police “savagely” beat performers at a protest must be independently investigated by the authorities, Amnesty International said as Jamal Ali, 24, and his band’s bass player, Natig Kamilov, 24, continued to be held in custody.After Ali insulted President Ilham Aliyev’s late mother during their performance in the capital Baku on Saturday, the two men were arrested along with the event’s organizer Etibar Salmanli, 25. After the incident, a court charged all three men with “petty hooliganism” and ordered them to spend five to 10 days in administrative detention. “The police’s violent assault on the performers at Saturday’s peaceful protest must be promptly and thoroughly investigated by an impartial authority, and those responsible brought to account,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia. Jamal Ali and Natig Kamilov are being denied access to their families and lawyer. During their court hearing they said they had been beaten again while in police custody. In Azerbaijan, people sentenced to administrative detention are normally transferred to a corrective detention facility, but the three activists remain in incommunicado police custody, fuelling fears that they are still at risk of torture. “These young men should not be subjected to torture or ill-treatment and must be given immediate access to their lawyer and families,” added Dalhuisen. Earlier this month, police in Baku beat four other youth activists and arrested 17 people taking part in another peaceful protest. Azerbaijani authorities have effectively criminalized peaceful anti-government protest in city centres, by banning demonstrations and imprisoning those who organize and take part in them. Police frequently use excessive force to break up peaceful, but officially unsanctioned demonstrations. Journalists have been prevented from reporting on the protests and blackmailed, and human rights defenders have faced threats and legal obstacles to carrying out their work.In March and April 2011, a wave of public protests demanding an end to repressive measures was put down forcefully, with numerous protesters and members of the political opposition later imprisoned on trumped-up charges. Amnesty International continues to campaign for the immediate and unconditional release of 14 prisoners of conscience jailed after the spring 2011 protests, and urges Azerbaijan’s government to give a greater voice to all its citizens in the run-up to the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku in May.“It’s deeply ironic that only two months before Baku takes the world stage for the Eurovision, Azerbaijani authorities are using force to break up and silence musicians performing at a peaceful protest on the city’s streets,” said John Dalhuisen.