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Azerbaijan’s “Tartar Case” renews investigation into alleged torture and abuses, as the number of victims and accused persons rises

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.