It isn't often that someone goes to jail because they refused to pay a bribe. Well, that's exactly what happened in Azerbaijan, in the exclave of Naxcivan.
Early in the morning of July 1, Intiqam Ismaylov, a local resident went to the Naxcivan Police Department with the hope of renewing his expired passport. By the evening of the same day, Ismaylov found himself in the local jail with the prospect of spending the next 15 days banged up.
According to Ismaylov's wife, the local police chief, Colonel Zakir Mamedov, demanded 5 manats ($7) for the bureaucratic procedure. Ismaylov refused to pay. He also protested. And as a politically active citizen (Ismaylov once ran for a seat in the local parliament), he went directly to Naxcivan's local parliament to file a complaint. He was told to go back to the police department and everything would be solved.
But the colonel had a different idea. On his return, Ismaylov was immediately arrested and taken to the local court. The judge sentenced Ismaylov to 15 days imprisonment for "resisting police," a catchall sentence often used in Azerbaijan to punish anyone for a short period of time.
Naxcivan, a exclave cut off from the rest of Azerbaijan, is the birthplace of two former Azerbaijani presidents. It's now more isolated than ever and run like a personal fiefdom. (More on that here
.) And reporting from Naxcivan has been increasingly dangerous in recent years, as RFE/RL correspondents recently found ou
RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service broke Ismaylov's story the day it happened. Three days later, Ismaylov was released from jail without any explanation or -- unsurprisingly -- an apology. And now, the police colonel who demanded the bribe has reportedly been fired. A lot of bother for seven dollars.
-- Kenan Aliyev