Leyla Yunus : Subject of "people's diplomacy " is just an excuse for repression2014 May 05 ( Monday ) 17:49:03
Baku/05.05.14/Turan : The Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, Leyla Yunus in an interview with Turan, shed light on some aspects of the “case of spies” unfolding in Azerbaijan. After more than two weeks following the arrest of Zerkalo newspaper columnist Rauf Mirkadirov, she remains of the view that this case has far-reaching political implications on the whole of civil society in the country .
Question: Leyla, when you heard that Rauf Mirkadirov was arrested on charges of treason and on suspicion of espionage, and you were called in this case as a witness, how did you react to the news?
Answer: Before my eyes fell immediately the case of Novruzali Mamedov, renowned scientist, author of the only Russian - Talysh dictionary, who was the subject of completely unfounded allegations of spying for Iran and then murdered in prison (similar case of Hilal Mamedov ), I realised that I was ordered to a very harsh accusation against people who are actively engaged in "public diplomacy". Rauf Mirkadirov is an intermediary. Hearing the name Laura Baghdasaryan, whom he allegedly passed "classified information", I realized that I would follow, as Laura Baghdasaryan is my partner and we had created a single, unique joint Armenian-Azerbaijani website.
Question: You said that this is due to people's diplomacy. You want to say that the Azerbaijani authorities are against the people's diplomacy?
Answer: Member of Parliament Ali Huseynov spoke clearly on this issue, noting that "people's diplomacy", from his point of view is not in the interests of Azerbaijan. And it's constantly repeated at governmental level. Our criminal-occupying power, cleans everything, destroys young bloggers, journalists, civil rights activists, free voice in the media, controls virtually all civil society, and if they are not controlled by NGOs engaged in "public diplomacy," which is also to be destroyed . Their slogan is "Who is not with us - against us." It's an old slogan that is very relevant today.
Question: Would you say that "public diplomacy" is just an excuse?
A: I want to say that the main task is to control all that is not uncontrollable, either domestically or in contact with other organizations, especially the "people's diplomacy" with neighboring Armenia.
Q: Recently Rauf Mirkadirov through his lawyer Fuad Agayev made a statement that his arrest comes from Russia. He wrote articles critical of Russia, so the order came out.
Answer: I think that arresting Rauf Mirkadirov who very sharply criticized Putin's actions with regard to Ukraine is certain reverence towards Russia by the authorities of Azerbaijan, of course. And the article published in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta against us confirms it. But this is indirect evidence, as direct evidence of the Russian order, of course does not exist.
Q: Let's go back to the "people's diplomacy." Your project is carried out jointly with the Armenian side. What did it include, and what might displease the authorities?
Answer: The Institute for Peace and Democracy is an unregistered NGO which actually exists, but not legally, because they refuse to register us and many other NGOs. We worked with the Research Centre "Region" in Armenia, which since 2005 has been led by Laura Baghdasaryan. We constantly publish interviews of various experts of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the media, we published a book, and in 2012 created a unique joint site. As far as I understood from facebook, a year ago the government was concerned with opening on this site of a dialogue about the Vilnius summit of EU Eastern Partnership, its results, and Armenia's joining of the Customs Union, Putin's visit to Baku. That is, all these topical political issues were openly discussed by the experts of Armenia and Azerbaijan. It was a platform for dialogue - no need to go anywhere, sit and chat on Skype.
There is a second point which concerned them. I have long been engaged in human rights activities. I examine human rights violations and the Azerbaijani legislation on issues such as the problem of ownership, the issue of freedom of speech and the media. And I placed these videos . I have heard dissatisfied statements of the representatives of our government regarding speaking so frankly about it at the joint site. During interrogation this sounded a fantastic thing to investigators of the prosecutor’s office – as if this site was created for Armenia and paid for by all the world: from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean.
Q: The media noted that you tried to flee the country after the arrest of Rauf Mirkadirov, and you were detained while trying to escape from Baku airport. Was it an escape or some other your decision?
A: We decided to go to the airport for two reasons. The first reason was to take part in a conference in Brussels to which we were invited. If they had let us to leave the country, I would definitely come back, as I had a meeting, I was included in the list of honorary guests for a meeting with French President Francois Hollande on 12th May - this is the first. Second - it was interesting, will they let us go or not, we have just got a new passport.
On the one hand, a conference is interesting and important because there is a return ticket . On the other hand, if they do not let us go it will be a scandal . When I was questioned by Eldar Akhmedov, the head of the investigation group, he said, that we had escaped. I replied that I am not so naive. If I wanted to run, I would have used a different way. It is a fact that we were detained at the airport in the presence of French Ambassador, Pascal Monnier and the second person of the U.S. Embassy Derek Hogan. Thereby, the scandal became widely known, which we actually wanted. A modest arrest after another interrogation in the prosecutor’s office did not suit me.
Q: So you so wanted to draw attention to your situation?
Answer: Yes, if they let us go, we will go and come back quietly. And if they do not let us go, it is better to be delayed like this.
Q: But they did not let you at first, since you appeared in a database of persons prohibited to travel...
Answer: No, no, we were detained at passport control a little. But then they put the seal and we were already through. Then we were approached by Colonel of the border guards who took our tickets and passports. He then moved erratically, speaking on two phones simultaneously. I think that two groups in power intervened in the case; one said delay, the other said let them go. It was very interesting to watch.
Q: And why the presence of the Ambassador of France?
Answer: We needed a witness of such a high level.
Q: And it is not connected in any way with your Legion of Honor?
Answer: Well, of course, this was due to the forthcoming visit of President Francois Hollande to Azerbaijan. I was registered for the meeting, so I invited the Ambassador of France, and there was the US Chargé d' Affaires.
Q: Were you searched after you were arrested at the airport?
Answer: Yes, it was a thorough search - from 10 p.m. until three in the morning. They said that this was an examination, but I was searched and they looked even through my feminine hygiene products. There was not any search warrant, or any other document to justify the search. Here begins a complete violation of the law by the prosecution. Since we were not under house arrest, we had the right to go where we wished. We were not arrested and there was no document of our search and examination. Throughout the evening, night and the subsequent day, they did not present any legal document or search warrant, nor about the detention.
Q: After you returned from the airport, why did you refuse to allow investigators to conduct a search in your apartment?
Answer: First, I wanted to allow the search, as I have nothing to hide, but when I came to the porch, I saw forty healthy men going to tumble into my apartment, not allowing any journalist or a friend of mine there. I am a person with extensive experience in human rights work. I know how they make a search protocol. If I had allowed them into my apartment, they would have found a nuclear bomb there. In such a situation I put conditions: there would be necessary to have witnesses from our side and the number of people, who would drop into our apartment, should be limited. To conduct a search in our apartment it is not necessary to invite 15 people, 4-5 people on each side are enough. Ibrahim Lemberansky the investigator did not agree and started to make a strong psychological impact. He shouted and he was so indignant that Arif began to lose consciousness.
Q: In the end, did you agree to the search?
Answer: No. I demanded that Arif was taken to hospital after Arif was not allowed to the doctor. I had a nervous breakdown because I was afraid that Arif would die and no one would be responsible for this. Many people have died because of them, so I could just strangle Lemberansky. When Arif was taken away, I realized that he was saved, at least. But the situation did not change and there were even more cops. I was not allowed into the toilet until 10 p.m., this was unacceptable, a real torture.
Q: Speaking of the closet, this video is on TV. When you hit the policeman on his cap...
Answer: No, I did not hit him and simply took off his cap, because only a man can wear his cap, and he is not a man, he's even not a human. Who can afford to follow a woman into the toilet and observe her there?
Q: But after interrogation in the Prosecutor Office you gave consent for second search?
Answer: My lawyer, me and a trustee were taken to the Prosecutor Office at 07:00 am, I did not sleep whole night; they interrogated me for 16 hours, it was quite senseless interrogation, allegedly Mirkadirov was spying, and I am main spy. I know well our prosecutors; they did the same against Anar Mamedli, Ilgar Mamedov and others. Therefore, I did not sign any document on not publishing secret. I understood that they would not let me go without a search in two of my flats. Therefore, I told that I would agree to the search if not 50 people, but only three or four people, and there s must be witnesses on my part, two of my lawyers, five people from every part. I did not open the door until there left five people from each side.
Q: Did they confiscate any documents?
A: In Nizami 53, where I was born, was confiscated a visit card of the Armenian woman- ethnographer, my colleague, I met with her before and after the destruction of the USSR, I do not remember. The book by Akif Nagi (head of the Karabakh Liberation Movement – edit.) There was located Women’s Crisis Center, and was confiscated a draft project which was being prepared by them, a copy of Rauf Mirkadirov’s card, an old bank card of Hamburger Bank, which I used during my stay in Germany, and papers with a seal of Khachmaz transport company of the beginning of 90s, i.e. useless things.
Q: They say, account that account of Arif was arrested, there was a large sum, and that you have a house in Turkey and Germany.
A. It is clear. All Aliyevs, Pashayevs, and Heydarovs are very poor people, compared with me. Arif Yunusov’s account in Unibank was arrested illegally, it is not a reliable bank. There were 8,740 euros on his account. When we wanted to pay for his treatment, we went to the bank , but were told that his account was arrested on April 26. The prosecutor office told that there was not such a decision. Our lawyer will appeal to the court regarding this,
Q: What is happening today?
A: I am a human rights defender, but such tyranny has never done it, especially against women. Contrary to Uzbekistan, women here were not summoned, tortured, or beaten. It is common in Uzbekistan. When I was asked about it once at the international conference , I said that it does not happen in our country, and is contrary to our mentality. But now it happens in our country too. During two day four women were summoned. One of them is Matanat Azizova, who is in close touch with me because she heads a Women’s Crisis Center which is located in my office. They summoned Rena Safaraliyeva, the head of Transparency Azerbaijan, whom I have not seen for five years. I think that by this the authorities want to change the head of this structure, fighting corruption, with a person loyal to them.
Then they summoned her accountant and a doctor who helped me several years ago when I did not feel well. Quite new in this case became the interference of a Turkish court . On Sunday, by the court decision in Ankara , the Turkish police raided the apartment of Adela Mirkadirova , Rauf’s wife, which has two children. They even seized during a search the child’s tablet. There was a consul of Azerbaijan and took Adela to the Azerbaijani Embassy in Ankara. She was released after a few hours of torment, and was summoned today again. We want to find her a Turkish lawyer. Complete chaos. The interesting thing is that they attract women to cooperate, even force.
Question: How do you think, what will be result of this story?
Answer: It is obvious that the order given at the highest level. It is obvious that Turkey and Russia are interested that Mirkadyrov, one of the brightest Azerbaijani journalists, criticizing the policy of Erdogan and Putin, be punished; and at the same time should be punished Leyla and Arif Yunus, who are independent and not subject to anyone. They did not imprison ne me now; only put hard and tough pressure, defying all laws and regulations in order to gather much incriminating material. They will find nothing, but will try to jail me after the visit of French President, and I have been invited to meet with him.
Question: What will you say to the president of France?
Answer: You cannot shake hands which are in blood. -0 -