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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
Yasar Bagirsoy says his brother has had his disability pension since the Chornobyl cleanup.
BAKU -- An Azerbaijani opposition member has been remanded in custody for three months on charges of faking his disability and stealing from the state, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Zeynal Bagirzade, who is in the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party's (AXCP) Naxcivan branch, was ordered on December 26 to be held by police in pretrial detention.

Yasar Bagirsoy, Bagirzade's brother and the head of the AXCP's Naxcivan branch, told RFE/RL that Bagirzade was charged with abuse of authority, using false documents, and inflicting great financial damage.

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

Bagirsoy said his brother was an invalid who participated in the cleanup of the 1986 Chornobyl disaster and has received a disability pension since shortly after the catastrophe.

"Now they say Zeynal did not ever go to Chornobyl, that he obtained a false document and has been embezzling state resources" because he is not truly disabled, he said.

Bagirsoy said his brother had been active in politics in recent years and aided in establishing the Naxcivan branch of the opposition movement known as the Public Chamber.

"My brother has received this pension for many years. If his documents were false, why have they only noticed now?" he said.

Naxcivan is an Azerbaijani exclave bordered by Iran on the west and Armenia on the east.

Read more in Azeri here

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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