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Detained Muslim Union Members speak out: allegations of torture and unhygienic conditions

Taleh Bagyrzade, the chairman of the Muslim Union Movement, and a prominent theologian, has allegedly faced threats to his life during his nine-year imprisonment.

Reports suggest that within Penitentiary No. 12, where he is held, Bagyrzade and other religious detainees have experienced instances of torture.

According to accounts provided by the movement to Meydan TV, Bagyrzade detailed the challenges faced within the penitentiary, particularly regarding a chronic water shortage worsening unhygienic conditions, which he had repeatedly raised with prison authorities through various channels, including media outlets, citing the health risks posed by it.

Bagyrzade recounted a recent protest he initiated on May 8, voicing his grievances over the lack of water. Instead of addressing the issue, the prison administration allegedly opted to retaliate against him and fellow protester Rafael, as well as four other believers, Kamran Huseynli, Rasim Masiyev, Fuad Asgarov, and Rafig Shahverdiyev. They were subjected to harsh treatment and torture, reportedly conducted by a group led by a prison guard called Aziz Taghiyev.

The Muslim Union Movement highlighted Taghiyev’s alleged death threat against Bagyrzade as indicative of a broader pattern of endangerment faced by prisoners within the institution:

“In addition to numerous reports of torture within prisons where arbitrary practices prevail, instances of fatalities emphasize the precarious safety of inmates. The threat issued by an employee like Aziz Taghiyev against Taleh Bagyrzade signals a grave concern demanding immediate attention.”

The movement has appealed to both local and international authorities, including the Office of the Ombudsman, urging intervention to safeguard the lives of those incarcerated:

“The menacing threats posed to innocent individuals within prison walls necessitate thorough investigation and the enforcement of punitive measures against perpetrators.”

The Penitentiary Service’s stance on the reported water shortage and prisoner abuse within Penitentiary No. 12 remains undisclosed.

Previous complaints regarding mistreatment within the facility prompted a collective plea from detainees addressed to President Ilham Aliyev, criticizing intolerable conditions, widespread corruption, and instances of torture. The Penitentiary Service’s public relations department refuted these allegations, emphasizing the strict regime imposed on repeat offenders or those convicted of serious crimes.

Bagyrzade, detained since November 2015 in connection with the Nardaran events, maintains his innocence despite facing charges including murder, terrorism, and illegal possession of weapons, alleging his arrest was politically motivated. He attributes the deaths of four civilians and two policemen during the Nardaran operation to the Organized Crime Control Department (“bandotdel”), denying any involvement in violent acts.

Despite allegations of torture by Bagyrzade and his co-defendants, the Ministry of Internal Affairs denies these claims. Bagyrzade has served seven years of his twenty-year sentence in Gobustan prison. Presently, over seventy members of the Muslim Union, including Bagyrzade, are incarcerated, all refuting the charges against them as politically driven.