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Azerbaijani Hunger Striker Under Pressure To Confess 'Psychological Disorder'

Tofiq Yaqublu was sentenced to four years in prison.
Tofiq Yaqublu was sentenced to four years in prison.

BAKU -- A lawyer for hunger-striking Azerbaijani opposition politician Tofiq Yaqublu said after a jail visit on September 7 that the 59-year-old prisoner looks unwell and that his captors are pressuring him to confess to nonexistent psychological problems to explain his protest.

Yaqublu was convicted of “hooliganism” and sentenced to four years in jail on September 3 over a dispute after a traffic accident that he and rights groups say was a setup for a “bogus” case.

Yaqublu is a deputy chairman of the opposition Musavat Party and a senior politician in the National Council of Democratic Forces.

The lawyer, Aqil Layic, told RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service that Yaqublu “was unwell [and] could not walk” when he saw him on the sixth day of a hunger strike that he began on September 2 to protest perceived injustice in his case.

He said that Yaqublu said officials at the Baku detention center where he is being held are trying to link the hunger strike to "a psychological disorder" but that Yaqublu has refused to sign statements to that effect.

Layic said his client is mentally sound and his hunger strike is solely to protest his conviction on politically motivated hooliganism charges.

Judge Nariman Mehdiyev of the Nizami district court in Baku interrupted Yaqublu in court and prevented him from making a final statement.

Yaqublu was arrested in March after a collision between his car and another vehicle, after which he says the driver of the other car started a heated argument with him.

Investigators accused Yaqublu of "using a wrench to conduct an act of hooliganism" against the other driver, a charge he has denied.

European officials have expressed concerns over Yaqublu's conviction and called on Baku to revisit his case.

Yaqublu, who frequently criticizes the government and authoritarian President Ilham Aliyev, spent 14 months in prison in 2013-14 on charges widely dismissed as politically motivated.

He was also sentenced to several days in jail in October after an opposition rally, during which he claims he was tortured in custody.

Critics of Aliyev's government say authorities in the oil-rich Caspian Sea state frequently seek to silence dissent by jailing opposition activists, journalists, and civil-society advocates on trumped-up charges.

Aliyev has ruled Azerbaijan since 2003, taking over from his father, Heydar Aliyev, who served as president for a decade.

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

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