Republic of Azerbaijan
Head of state Ilham Aliyev
Head of government Artur Rasizade
The government continued to intimidate and imprison people and groups who criticized the government. Peaceful protests in the centre of the city were banned and dispersed by the police with excessive use of force. Torture, especially in police custody, was frequently reported.
Prisoners of conscience
Four prisoners of conscience were released on 26 December by presidential pardon: activists Vidadi Iskandarov and Shahin Hasanli, arrested in connection with the 2011 protests; and Taleh Khasmammadov and Anar Bayramli, both convicted on fabricated charges in 2012. Human rights defender Taleh Khasmammadov was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for allegedly attacking police officers in a police station shortly after he had published several articles implicating the involvement of local police in organized criminal activities. Anar Bayramli, a journalist working for the Azeri language and Iranian-sponsored television station Sahar, was arrested on 17 February for drugs possession, shortly after relations between Azerbaijan and Iran deteriorated.
Freedom of expression
The government targeted human rights defenders and journalists for their work and subjected them to intimidation, harassment and arrest. The authorities used arrests and spurious charges to clamp down on activities and protests at the time of the Eurovision song contest in the capital Baku in May.