Anti-corruption NGO urges Baku to safeguard the rule of law and protect those who expose corruption
Transparency International (TI), the world's leading non-governmental organisation fighting corruption, has called on President Aliyev of Azerbaijan to review the case of Janmirza Mirzoev, who on 5 November was sentenced to eight years imprisonment on charges of arranging the murder in 1993 of Rear Admiral Eduard Huseinov. Mirzoev, a former naval captain, has publicly made detailed allegations of mismanagement and corruption within the Defense Ministry. TI joins representatives of the international community and local human rights organisations in Baku who say that his recent conviction is a clear-cut attempt by officials to silence him. In a letter to President Aliyev dated 18 December, Hansjörg Elshorst, Managing Director of TI Secretariat, states: "We share with the US Embassy and the international community the view that Mirzoev's sentencing and the manner in which his trial and investigation were conducted appear to have been inconsistent with the principles of due process of the law." Elshorst continues: "Corruption cannot be fought if those that expose it are submitted to the treatment meted out to Mr Mirzoev."
Mirzoev's trial was riddled with irregularities. The court that sentenced Mirzoev rejected all evidence presented by the defendant during the trial and based its decision on the statement of a single witness. The courts have been reluctant to allow outside observers into the courtroom. Transparency International also points out that an eight-year prison sentence for involvement in the murder of an Admiral is a legal anomaly. This in itself is an indication that the conviction was politically motivated.
Mirzoev has been repeatedly detained and harassed in recent years for his efforts to publicise corruption within the Defense Ministry. His allegations have included a scam in which the Defence Ministry falsified documentation pertaining to the purchase of food supplies from the Ministry of Trade, skimming off the difference between the actual and the alleged price. Mirzoev also claimed that servicemen had died of starvation, including some whose cause of death was given as frostbite.
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