Dozens of Azerbaijani nongovernmental organizations have signed a petition urging international organizations to support an investigation into torture cases in Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.
Institute for Peace and Democracy Director Leyla Yunus told RFE/RL on May 19 that the initiative is aimed at "naming and shaming" those who commit torture and to increase awareness about torture cases in Azerbaijan.
The petition includes the names of high-level officials in the Interior Ministry who they allege have personally committed torture. The list includes the names of a deputy minister and chiefs of police departments.
The authors of the petition claim the government has a policy of promoting torturers instead of punishing them.
Interior Ministry spokesman Ehsan Zahidov said allegations about torture at police stations or in general within the Interior Ministry are baseless.
The human rights defenders claim more people were tortured in Azerbaijan in 2009 than in any previous year. According to their petition there were 136 cases of torture registered last year. They say seven people died from torture in 2009, including Novruzali Mammadov, the editor of the "Talishi Sado" newspaper, who died last summer in a hospital prison.
The signatories of the petition urge international organizations to help them establish an independent medical expertise institution, to demand that the government provide civil organizations and the media access to people detained or imprisoned, and to conduct special hearings on the punishment of people who commit torture.