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Azerbaijani Activist Hospitalized After 'Prison Abuse'

Yasar Bagirsoy says his brother is being targetted because of both of their political activities.

Yasar Bagirsoy says his brother is being targetted because of both of their political activities.

BAKU -- The relatives of an Azerbaijani opposition member who was remanded in custody for three months say he has now been hospitalized after allegedly being tortured, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Zeynal Bagirzade, a member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party's (AXCP) Naxcivan branch, was ordered on December 27 to be kept by police in pretrial detention on charges of faking his disability and stealing from the state.

Yasar Bagirsoy, his brother and the acting head of the AXCP's Naxcivan branch, told RFE/RL that Bagirzade was taken to the Justice Ministry's isolation ward, where he was physically abused and tortured.

"I have information that he was in critical condition" before being taken to the hospital, Bagirsoy said. "He was tortured one day after he was brought to the ward. He has now been placed in the Naxcivan Diagnostics Center...[and is] in a very critical state."

Bagirsoy said doctors had diagnosed Bagirzade as having a stomach ailment, but that that was only being used as a pretext to cover up the beating he endured.

"I was beside him during the trial...I sent him to the prison ward safe and sound," Bagirsoy said. "He had no problems. Zeynal has, in general, never complained about his stomach. [I think] he was heavily tortured."

Bagirsoy said Bagirzade's relatives were not being allowed to see him and charged that a political order was given for his brother's arrest and abusive treatment in detention.

"Local authorities had warned us more than once to give up our political activities," Bagirsoy said. "We refused. Now they are extracting revenge on us [by arresting and beating] my brother."

The Naxcivan Justice Ministry did not comment on the issue.

The Naxcivan Diagnostics Center told RFE/RL that Bagirzade was brought to the hospital but returned to prison, as he was not found to be suffering from any sickness.

But Bagirsoy said his brother was still in the hospital and had not been returned to the prison. "Our relatives are being moved away from the hospital," he said. "Now they are waiting outside. We have no information about Zeynal."

Bagirzade was charged with abuse of authority, using false documents, and inflicting financial damage on the state in connection with accusations that he faked a disability in order to collect benefits given to handicapped people.

If found guilty of those charges he could be imprisoned for between one and 12 years.

Read more in Azeri here