In response to the decision of Ukrainian authorities to deport Azerbaijani activist and blogger Elvin Isayev from the country, a week before the state visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Azerbaijan, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“Isayev’s sudden deportation from Ukraine on unsubstantiated grounds reflects the Ukrainian government’s prioritization of its relationship with an economically important dictatorship over the rule of law, especially in light of a recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights requiring the Russian Federation not to deport him back to Azerbaijan,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Freedom House’s Europe and Eurasia programs. “The Azerbaijani government’s targeting of its critics abroad, including through the use of political pressure, extradition requests, and INTERPOL “red notice” requests, extends the country’s ability to attack critics and dissidents beyond its borders. Isayev’s detention in Azerbaijan without charge or due process is unacceptable. We call on the Azerbaijan authorities to release him immediately.”
Elvin Isayev, an Azerbaijani blogger and activist, was swiftly deported from Ukraine on December 12 on grounds of “violating immigration laws,” according to a press release from the State Migration Service of Azerbaijan. Upon arriving in Azerbaijan on December 14, Isayev was placed in a pretrial holding cell based on a Baku court ruling issued on August 22. Besides the statement from the State Migration Service, the Azerbaijani government has not explained on what grounds Isayev was arrested, or what charges he faces.
Isayev had previously resided in Russia since 1998, where he regularly criticized Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on his blog and other social media platforms for acts of repression and corruption. He was stripped of his Russian citizenship based on a St. Petersburg court ruling on August 26, and faced deportation to Azerbaijan. An interim decision of the European Court of Human Rights under “Rule 39” suspended his deportation on the grounds that forcing Isayev to return to Azerbaijan could cause him irreparable harm.
While Ukrainian media outlets and civil society organizations have acknowledged his disappearance and demanded his immediate release, the Ukrainian government has not yet commented on Isayev’s deportation. Isayev’s extradition comes ahead of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s visit to Azerbaijan, planned for December 16–18.
Ukraine is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2019 and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2019. Azerbaijan is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2019 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2019.