On September 12, the new Commander of the Russian peacekeeping forces temporarily stationed in Azerbaijan, Major General Kirill Kulakov was introduced to the Azerbaijan Defense Minister, Colonel General Zakir Hasanov by the Commander-in-Chief of the Land Forces of the Russian Federation, Army General Oleg Salyukov, Azernews reports, citing the Ministry.
The Defense Minister welcomed the guests and noted that Azerbaijani-Russian cooperation is based on friendly relations and mutual trust.
Colonel General Zakir Hasanov spoke about the operational situation in the Garabagh economic region. He emphasized that the number of provocations committed by illegal Armenian armed detachments had increased recently.
Commander-in-Chief of the Land Forces of the Russian Federation, Army General Oleg Salyukov expressed his gratitude for the warm reception and noted that Azerbaijani-Russian bilateral relations are based on historical roots, and the two countries are strategic allies.
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Iran was accused of attempting to influence Azerbaijan’s mosques; 118 clerics were removed from their jobs
On April 6, the Chairman of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations, Mubariz Gurbanli, announced that the Tehran regime had been attempting to establish Iranians in mosques in Azerbaijan.
Gurbanli added that his committee had been working patiently and purposefully to prevent this, as Iran was trying to spread its state-religion model to Azerbaijan and other surrounding countries. He also claimed that the Tehran regime had been conducting campaigns on social networks to carry out this propaganda in Azerbaijan.
Gurbanli further stated that after the authority to appoint people to mosques was transferred to the committee, about 120 people who received education and could express the state’s interests were appointed. At the same time, 118 clerics were removed from their jobs. He also mentioned the completion of repair work in the former Abu Bakir mosque and expected its opening soon.
Recently, around 400 Islamic-faith believers have been arrested in Azerbaijan, and social activists and human rights defenders have reported on this. Most of those arrested have been charged with drug possession, but their relatives and lawyers say these accusations are false. However, the Ministry of Internal Affairs claims that it is not aware of the arrest of 400 people.
On April 5, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the State Security Service, and the General Prosecutor’s Office released a statement claiming that a group was created for the purpose of establishing a “Karim” state governed by Sharia law in Azerbaijan. The information says that Iran’s special services have seized a group of people with material and religious propaganda, and crimes have been prepared in the direction of destabilizing Azerbaijan.
Furthermore, the initial traces of the terrorist act against MP Fazil Mustafa were linked to Iran, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan on March 31, 2023. The deputy was shot in front of his house on March 28, 2023, and the head of the security service of the embassy was killed in an armed attack on the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Iran on January 27, 2023. Employees of the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Iran were subsequently evacuated to Baku.
Azerbaijan has been rocked by a torture case known as the “Tartar case,” where 452 victims have come forward with allegations of torture and abuse.
The trial of Colonel Vusal Alasgarov and three other soldiers accused of torturing soldiers accused of spying for Armenians during the “Tartar Incidents” in May-June 2017 continues in Baku. The victims have been giving their statements, and the family members of those who lost their lives have participated in the court proceedings as their legal heirs.
One of the victims was senior lieutenant Tamkin Guliyev, whose father Nizami Guliyev testified at the court session. Nizami Guliyev said that when his son’s body was brought back to them on May 15, 2017, they were told that he died of pneumonia. However, an exhumation in 2022 revealed that he died from torture, with injuries to the vertebrae, head, hands, and feet. Nizami Guliyev demanded that those who caused their death by torturing the soldiers, including his son, be charged with murder and treason.
Another victim was commander Suleyman Kazymov, whose wife Zulfiyya Kazimova testified in court. She demanded that high-ranking officials involved in the torture be brought to criminal responsibility, including Hikmet Hasanov, who she claims gave the orders. Kazimova said that they received the news of her husband’s death on May 9, 2017, and were initially told that he was a martyr, but later were told that he died in an accident. Those who brought the body to them tried to make them sign a blank piece of paper. Kazimova claimed that her husband was handcuffed, drowned in water, and beaten before his death.
Elchin Guliyev, who was accused of treason and acquitted after the “Tartar case” proceedings were renewed, also lost his life as a result of torture. His mother Valida Ahmadova testified in court and said that her son made a phone call for the last time on May 3, 2017. On May 8, his father and cousin were called to the executive power and told that Elchin Guliyev had died and was a “traitor to the country”. When his body was brought back to them, they claimed that he poured drugs into the food truck he was driving during the April 2016 battles so that the soldiers would sleep. However, Ahmadova said that her son was not driving the food truck at all, but was on vacation. She also claimed that the authorities created obstacles for those who came to his funeral and called her son a “traitor to the country”.
One victim, Vagif Abdullayev, claims that General Hikmat Hasanov threatened to send those who refused to engage in espionage to a minefield and had him put in a cage, and threatened to shoot him. Several other victims have confirmed this threat. Abdullayev emphasized the importance of prosecuting General Hasanov and other officials in order to have an objective investigation of the case.
Another victim, Merhamat Rajabli, accused Colonel Vusal Alasgarov of putting a gun in his mouth, tying his hands, and subjecting him to various forms of torture, including electric shocks and nail removal. The accused persons did not respond to the accusations made by the victims.
After the investigation into the “Tartar case” was renewed in December 2021, the number of people brought to criminal responsibility for torture reached 17, with one person still wanted. Four more people who were already in prison were re-indicted due to their participation in torturing others.
In November 2022, the cases of 19 people who had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for treason and other serious charges were re-examined, their sentences were canceled, and they were acquitted five years later. The court investigations on the cases of the four named persons in this particular incident are still ongoing.
The trial continues in Baku, and the victims’ families are seeking justice for their loved ones who lost their lives as a result of torture.
The speaker of the Georgian Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, has taken his grievances directly to OC Media’s institutional donors in an apparent bid to influence or punish the outlet for declining to publish an opinion piece he had written.
At least one international organisation that provides funding to OC Media confirmed that the speaker’s office wrote to them following the rejection.
In a letter to the donor seen by OC Media, the speaker’s office said that cooperation between the Georgian Government and the donor ‘rests on a shared understanding of Georgia’s aspirations towards European and Euro-Atlantic integration’.
‘The fact that you are funding an organisation that provides only one-sided coverage of Georgian politics and flatly refuses to even consider a differing opinion for publication, does not correspond to this spirit’, the letter read.
A representative of the donor organisation in question told OC Media they were ‘surprised’ by the letter. ‘We were surprised by the complaint and not sure how to interpret this’, they said.
A representative of the speaker’s office, Tiko Mgeladze, first approached OC Media about Papuashvili’s wish to publish an opinion piece on 28 June.
Mgeladze refused to send the text until OC Media confirmed they would publish it. After being informed it would not be possible to publish an article without first seeing it in full, the speaker’s office again declined, sending only a headline — ‘The tactic of virtually separating Georgia’s democratic government from Georgian people fits the Russian hybrid playbook’ — and the first paragraph of the text.
OC Media’s editorial team ultimately rejected the pitch. Papuashvili later published the text on his personal X (formerly Twitter) account.