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Jailed Azerbaijani Opposition Activist Stops Hunger Strike

Saleh Rustamli (file photo)
Saleh Rustamli (file photo)

BAKU -- Jailed Azerbaijani opposition activist Saleh Rustamli, whose supporters were attacked and detained when they rallied recently to demand his release, has ended his hunger strike after 41 days.

Rustamli, who has lived in Russia since 1998, was arrested in 2018 when he visited Azerbaijan. He was subsequently sentenced to more than seven years in prison after a court found him guilty of money laundering for the alleged transfer of $420,000 to a bank account connected to an opposition party.

He denies the charges, calling them politically motivated.

A member of the opposition Popular Front of Azerbaijan Party (AXCP), Rustamli started his hunger strike in early November to demand his release from prison.

His lawyer, Bahruz Bayramov, told RFE/RL that he was able to talk to his client in a detention center in Baku on December 16.

"Saleh is very exhausted, so we talked via a telephone. He is connected to an intravenous system. He stopped his hunger strike at the request of his sister and his doctor, Adil Geybulla," Bayramov said.

Rustamli's doctor confirmed to RFE/RL that Rustamli had ended his hunger strike. He also rejected local media reports saying that Rustamli was in a coma.

State Penitentiary Service officials were not available for immediate comment.

Human rights groups in Azerbaijan have declared Rustamli a political prisoner.

Police in Baku violently dispersed two demonstrations this month at which protesters demanded Rustamli's release.

Some of the protesters were later either fined or handed jail terms of up to 30 days on charges they violated sanitary precautions during the coronavirus pandemic.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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