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Court orders Azerbaijan to compensate student dissidents for drugs arrests

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered Azerbaijan to compensate two student dissidents who were jailed on drugs charges after defacing a statue of President Ilham Aliyev’s father in 2016.

The students had been arrested in an act of retaliation for the graffiti, the ECHR sitting in

Strasbourg, France

ruled on Thursday that there had been no “reasonable suspicion” against them.

As such, the arrests were an unlawful and “grossly arbitrary” interference with the students’ right of freedom of expression.

The two students, both members of the NIDA civic movement, had daubed graffiti saying “F…ck the system” and “Happy slave day” on the statue of Heydar Aliyev, who ruled Azerbaijan from 1993 until his son took over in 2003.

The court found out that they were arrested the following day and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment to force them to confess to charges of drug trafficking.

Both students were convicted of drugs offences and sentenced to 10 years in jail before being released by presidential pardon in 2019.

The case is the latest in a series where the Strasbourg-based ECHR made previously rare findings that Azerbaijan had abused the judicial system to retaliate against dissidents.

In 2018, it found that four other NIDA members had been arrested and charged with supplying firebombs in retaliation for their involvement in the group.

The ECHR ordered Azerbaijan to pay 30,000 Euros (32,638 dollars) compensation to each of the students.

NIDA Civic Movement commonly referred to as NIDA or simply Nida, is an Azerbaijani civic movement founded in early 2011 by a few young people to achieve democratic and social changes in Azerbaijan.

Currently it has over 350 members comprising mainly young individuals as well as well-known politicians and activist

s.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Isaac Aregbesola

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