This is a petition from concerned alumni, students, faculty and staff of the Harvard community. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev (Harvard Kennedy School Class of 2009) has been named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
Bakhtiyar Hajiyev graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2009. He returned to his native Azerbaijan to run for Parliament on a pro-democracy, anti-corruption platform.
In May 2011, Mr. Hajiyev was convicted of evading military service and sentenced to two years in prison, despite a well-known Constitutional provision that permits for alternative service.
We are deeply concerned that Mr. Hajiyev’s arrest and conviction were politically motivated. Several organizations, including Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch, have drawn attention to this arrest and have asked for Mr. Hajiyev’s “immediate and unconditional release.”
See pages 418-423 of 2012 Global Report by Human Rights Watch. At: http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/wr2012.pdf
See pages 23-24 of the Amnesty International Report, “The Spring that Never Blossomed: Freedoms Suppressed in Azerbaijan." At: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR55/011/2011/en/831dedec-1c7a-47a3-99ec-f59d1c2f3a19/eur55
Please sign the petition to ask Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to call upon Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to immediately release Mr. Hajiyev. March 4, 2012 is an important parole date.
Please forward widely to all members of the Harvard community.
Harvard Committee to Free Bakhtiyar Hajiyev
Dear Secretary Clinton,
We are concerned members of the Harvard community--alumni, students, faculty and staff of Harvard College, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard Law School, Harvard Business School, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard School of Public Health, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Our colleague and fellow member of the Harvard community, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, graduated from Harvard Kennedy School in 2009 with a Master in Public Policy. Shortly after graduation, Mr. Hajiyev, now 29, returned to his native Azerbaijan and ran for Parliament. A few months later, he was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to two years in prison after organizing a Facebook campaign calling for peaceful protests.
In 2010, Mr. Hajiyev stood as an opposition candidate in Parliamentary elections, running on a pro-democracy platform committed to increased government accountability and democratic reform. It was a novel campaign, executed in part with tools he learned in the U.S. volunteering on a presidential campaign in 2008. Mr. Hajiyev conducted direct meetings with thousands of citizens, and he utilized social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube to share his anti-corruption message and mobilize volunteers. Mr. Hajiyev finished third in the election, with the top two candidates moving forward. Though Mr. Hajiyev was repeatedly detained and arrested during his candidacy, his campaign was praised by many public figures in Azerbaijan.
Several months later, inspired by the Arab Spring protests, Mr. Hajiyev co-organized a virtual campaign on Facebook calling for peaceful protests on March 11, 2011. Soon after the page went public, Mr. Hajiyev was arrested by Azerbaijani police and held for two months. In a note passed to his lawyer during a hearing, Mr. Hajiyev wrote that the police had questioned him about his Facebook activity, punched him, strangled him, twisted his arms, and pressed down on his face until his mouth bled. He also reported being threatened with rape.
In May 2011, Mr. Hajiyev was convicted of evading military service, despite a well-known Constitutional provision that permits alternative service. Mr. Hajiyev was sentenced to two years in prison. To the best of our knowledge, he is currently being held in Prison #14 in the Qizildash settlement, Qaradagh district, which is considered to be among the worst in the country.
We are deeply concerned that Mr. Hajiyev’s arrest and conviction were politically motivated. Human rights organizations assert that the Azerbaijani government has used military conscription to silence critics and dissidents. In May 2011, the European Parliament adopted a resolution expressing “deep concern at the increasing number of harassment, attacks and violence against civil society and social network activists and journalists in Azerbaijan.” Later that month, the European High Representative for foreign affairs issued a statement expressing concern about Mr. Hajiyev’s conviction. In November 2011, Amnesty International named Mr. Hajiyev a prisoner of conscience, “imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of his views,” and called for his “immediate and unconditional release.” Human Rights Watch, in its 2012 World Report, also named the growing problem of imprisonment on politically motivated charges, citing Mr. Hajiyev’s case as an example.
Mr. Hajiyev faces a parole hearing on March 4, 2012. The United States is an important partner for Azerbaijan, and we respectfully request your leadership in pressing President Ilham Aliyev and the government of Azerbaijan to release Mr. Hajiyev. We believe that America's relationships with its partners and allies should include a commitment to democracy, human rights, and freedom of dissent.
Mr. Hajiyev is deeply committed to the pursuit of democratic ideals and justice. As his colleagues, we know Bakhtiyar to be an intelligent, sensitive individual with integrity, who has dedicated his life to serving the public interest of Azerbaijan.
We, the undersigned, respectfully urge you to call upon President Ilham Aliyev to uphold human rights and immediately and unconditionally release Bakhtiyar Hajiyev from prison.
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