Emin Aslan’s appeal denied in Azerbaijani

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Executive Director

BAKU, Azerbaijani – Detained human rights lawyer, Emin Aslan, appealed his detention in Azerbaijani’s Court of Appeals on June 8th. None of Aslan’s eight defense motions were granted and the court rejected his appeal.

Emin Aslan at Syracuse University College of Law. Image Courtesy of Emin Aslan.

In the appeal, Aslan denied committing the alleged administrative offense. He maintained that he was detained in front of Park Boulevard Mall at 17:30, while the police report says he was detained in Narimanov Park at 23:30. Aslan’s lawyer, Elchin Sadigov, petitioned to attach testimony of a witness that corroborates Aslan’s version of events. He also sought to interrogate additional witnesses of the event and requested records from CCTV cameras in the territory. These motions were rejected.

The Court of Appeals ultimately upheld Aslan’s detention on allegations that Aslan was swearing on the phone. Friends and co-workers of Aslan say that cursing publicly and disobeying police is beyond his character, and claim that these charges are fabricated.

Aslan earned his law degree from Syracuse University a few weeks before his detainment.  On June 11th, Syracuse University College of Law released a letter of support for Aslan. The statement acknowledges him as “a person of integrity who has deep respect for human rights, civil society, and the rule of law.” It calls for a “transparent, open legal process in his case, if not his immediate and safe release.” Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie has carried a copy of this letter to the United States Department of State.

The College of Law encourages the community to share Aslan’s story on social media platforms and attract attention to his situation. Several faculty members have already shared Aslan’s story with the media. The letter states, “We will continue to follow this situation and pledge to provide Emin and his family our support.”

For more information, please see:

Turan – Emin Aslan Told About Interrogations in MDCOC – 8 June 2018

VOA – Graduate of US Law School Arrested in Azerbaijan – 7 June 2018

Human Rights Watch – Ruthlessly Silenced in Bahrain: Daily Brief – 5 June 2018

Recent Syracuse Law graduate, Emin Aslan, detained in Azerbaijan

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Executive Director

Emin Aslan is a human rights lawyer and native of Azerbaijan. He returned home on May 30th after completing his graduate education at Syracuse University College of Law.  After being in the country for only four days, Aslan was detained by police.

Emin Aslan with his fiancé, Nura. Image by Emin Aslan.

Aslan was in a cafe with his fiancé when he was approached by plain-clothed police officers. He was put in a car by a unit of the country’s interior ministry that purportedly deals with organized crime, and his whereabouts were unknown for more than twelve hours.

The next day, the Department for Combating Organized Crime confirmed with lawyer Elchin Sadigov that it was holding Aslan, but Sadigov was not allowed to see him. That day, Aslan was accused of “disobeying police” in local court and sentenced to a thirty day administrative detention. However, his family and friends report that Aslan fully cooperated with police so the real reason for his detention is unknown.

Aslan holds an undergraduate degree in law from Baku State University and LLM degree from Syracuse University College of Law. He has worked with a number of non-governmental organizations both in Azerbaijan and elsewhere. Also, he has worked on a range of cases for the European Court of Human Rights including freedom to assembly, torture, election, freedom of speech and others.

Outside of his work as a lawyer, Aslan has written for several Azerbaijani publications on democracy, human rights, culture and history. He has previous affiliations with Human Rights House in Tbilisi, American Bar Association, Media Rights Institute, as well as the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.

Additionally, Aslan founded the platform “Thinking Citizen Lab” in Georgia in 2016. This initiative focused on alternative education targeting ethnic Azerbaijanis living in Georgia and served as an intellectual and cultural platform.

Although Aslan will remain in police custody for the next thirty days, the sentence of administrative detention left his family with some hope that he will be released at the end of his term.

For more information, please see:

Global Voices – Freedom abroad, fear at home: Azerbaijani human rights lawyer detained for 30 days – 5 June 2018

Syracuse – Recent SU law grad, human rights lawyer ‘abducted’ by Azerbaijan police, groups say – 5 June 2018 

Chilean students and teachers march against Pinera administration

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SANTIAGO, Chile – On Thursday, thousands of students and teachers held a massive demonstration in Chile. They gathered to denounce profit-making in higher education under President Sebastian Pinera’s administration.

Demonstrators take part in protest in Santiago, Chile. Image Courtesy of Rodrigo Garrido.

Organizers estimated around 120,000 participants in the demonstration along central Alameda Avenue in Santiago. Similar protests took place in other main cities of Chile such as Coquimbo, Valparaiso, and Temuco. The march was called by the National Confederation of Students of Chile (Confech) and was the first major protest under the month-old administration of conservative President Pinera. They demanded an end of profit-making, student debts, and sexism in higher education.

This protest follows a recent decision by the country’s constitutional court to overturn a law that prohibited for-profit companies from controlling universities. While profit-making from higher education is illegal, critics have long claimed that some companies that operate universities have found ways to exploit loopholes in the law. These companies find ways to turn a profit without re-investing the money in reduced tuition or improved education.

Young people consider higher education a business that is putting them and their families in debt. One spokeswoman for the students, Sandra Beltrami, said “the demands of the student movement are still valid and remain the same. We want to be in the classrooms, we want to have classes, we want to study a career in order to be someone in life and have a profession like many people in this country, and we cannot do it because there is still profit in Chile.”

Students and teachers marched through downtown Santiago and made their point by banging drums, toting banners, and sometimes throwing rocks and blocking traffic. There were small confrontations with police who occasionally used tear gas to disperse protesters.

President Pinera is a conservative billionaire who served a term as president from 2010 and 2014. His first term was marred by massive student protests seeking an education overhaul. Earlier in the week, President Pinera sent a bill to Chile’s Congress to increase public financing for technical colleges. In a move that many thought was intended to defuse tension with students, he promised that access to free education was “here to stay.”

Higher education was free in the country until 1981 when Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship pave the way for the development of private universities with no constraints on tuition fees. Now, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that Chile has the fourth-most-expensive university system in the world.

For more information, please see:

Sputnik – Chilean Students March Against Unfair Education – 20 April 2018

FMT News – Chile’s students launch first protest under Pinera administration – 20 April 2018

The Santiago Times – Pinera administration faces first student march in Chile – 19 April 2018

Telesur – Over 120,000 Chilean Students March Against Profits and Sexism – 19 April 2018

Democracy Now – Chile: Massive Student Mobilization Protests Privatization of Education – 20 April 2018

 

Former Brazilian leader in police custody

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CURITIBA, Brazil – Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva surrendered himself to police after a day-long standoff. The politician has begun his twelve-year prison term for money laundering and corruption.

Demonstrators protest outside of the Federal Police Department in Curitiba, Brazil. Image Courtesy of Denis Ferreira.

Lula was taken into custody on Saturday in Sao Paulo and was flown to the southern city of Curitiba. Just hours earlier, he told thousands of supporters that he would surrender to police while still maintaining his innocence. Lula argues that his corruption conviction is just a way to keep him from running for re-election in October.

Judge Sergio Moro ordered the arrest warrant for Lula, giving him until 5 p.m. Friday to present himself to police. Instead, Lula chose to hunker down in the metal workers union headquarters where his rise to power began. The once very popular leader still has a large support base who gathered at the headquarters to keep him from going to jail.

When he first tried to leave, dozens of people blocked the gate where his car was trying to exit. His supporters had a few minutes of tense words with the guards until Lula got out of the car and went back into the building. He emerged a second time later that night surrounded by bodyguards who kept supporters away. He reported to police and was transported by helicopter to his cell in Curitiba.

Currently, Lula is appealing his conviction for corruption. The Supreme Federal Tribunal, the country’s top court, decided in a six to five vote that Lula could not remain free while appealing his conviction. However, it would only take one justice to change his mind for Lula to be released while pursuing his appeals. These could take months if not years. Additionally, Lula is facing six separate pending trials for corruption.

Polls conducted before he was jailed report that Lula was the frontrunner for the October presidential election. He claims that he is a political prisoner of the opposition party. Lula said, “The police and ‘Car Wash’ investigators lied. The prosecution lied, and I don’t forgive them for giving society the idea that I am a thief.”

Supporters have staged a “Free Lula” camp outside of the federal building where he is being held. They say they will not budge until he is released. Police estimated about 700 people camping around the building with more expected to arrive. The leader of the Workers’ Party, Gleisi Hoffmann, said Lula is a political prisoner and the party will not give up the fight to have him released.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Brazil ex-leader Lula’s supporters camp outside jail – 9 April 2018

Irish Times – Former Brazilian president Lula hands himself over to police – 8 April 2018

Washington Post – Still popular, Brazil’s Lula starts serving jail sentence – 8 April 2018

Chicago Tribune – Once wildly popular, Brazil’s da Silva is jailed to start 12-year sentence for graft – 7 April 2018

Times Union – Former leader of Brazil in police custody – 7 April 2018

Brazilian state seeks to close border with Venezuela

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

RORAIMA, Brazil – The governor of Brazil’ northern state of Roraima asked the Supreme Court for permission to temporarily close the only land border crossing with neighboring Venezuela. This move would halt the massive influx of Venezuelan migrants.

Venezuelan families sleeping in Simon Bolivar public square in Boa Vista’s city center. Image Courtesy of Reynesson Damasceno.

Roraima Governor Suely Campos petitioned the high court to order the federal government to increase assistance in her state to deal with the humanitarian crisis. She also requested that the border be closed until the government implements orderly immigration procedures. Campos explained that she had to go to the top court because the federal government had not responded to her state’s requests.

Campos justifies her request by pointing out that the Venezuelan economic crisis causes more than 500 immigrants to cross the open border every day. She says the process is disorderly and most are allowed to enter with no visa, just by showing a Venezuelan document. This has overloaded health, housing, and education services. It is bringing threat of disease and social disorder. Many of these immigrants walked hundreds of kilometers to reach the state capital, Boa Vista, and end up sleeping in the streets.

Campos says, “we have to require more documents, vaccination cards, criminal background checks, the inspection of cars. There has to be a way to contain this influx.” She later told Brazilian media that Brazil’s President Michel Temer has been ineffective in helping her state contain the crisis.

President Temer, attending the Summit of the Americas in Lima, stated that closing the border was “unthinkable.” He said his government was delivering assistance requested by Roraima, and he hoped the Supreme Court would deny the governor’s request to shut the border. The president remarked, “I have just read the petition and I noticed that many of the measures requested are already being taken, such as the shipment of resources and personnel who are going there to provide social assistance and medical care.”

In February, the federal government declared an emergency to boost funding for Roraima and doubled the number of troops at the border. The government also started using Air Force planes to move refugees to larger Brazilian cities. Additionally, closing the border would violate international treaties. President Temer said, “closing borders is not a habit of Brazil. Brazil would not close borders, and I hope that is the understanding of the Supreme Court.”

Since last year, more than 50,000 Venezuelan refugees have fled Venezuela and crossed into Roraima. This influx was approximately equal to ten percent of the state’s population of 520,000 people.

For more information, please see:

Xinhua Net – Brazilian president says closing border with Venezuela “unthinkable” – 14 April 2018

The Santiago Times – Brazilian state asks Supreme Tribunal to temporarily close Venezuela border – 14 April 2018

Business Insider – Brazil state seeks to shut Venezuelan border to stop refugee flow – 13 April 2018

National Post – Brazilian governor wants to close border with Venezuela – 13 April 2018