An activist belonging to the ethnic Talysh minority was immediately arrested after Moscow deported him back to his native Azerbaijan, ignoring a plea from Amnesty International not to hand him over to Azerbaijani authorities amid fears he may face torture.
In a statement issued on March 1, Azerbaijan’s State Security Service (DTX) said Fahraddin Abbasov was detained after his flight landed in Baku on February 28. It said he had been charged with promoting anti-state activities and inciting ethnic discord.
According to the DTX statement, investigators would look into whether Abbasov had cooperated with the security forces of Armenia, a country that has strained relations with Azerbaijan, largely due to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh — territory inside Azerbaijan that is populated mainly by ethnic Armenians.
The DTX said Abbasov was deported from Russia immediately after his Russian residency permit had expired.
A day earlier, Amnesty International expressed concerns about Abbasov’s whereabouts, after he was moved from his pretrial detention cell at a prison near Moscow.
In a statement on its Russian website on February 28, Amnesty said Abbasov went missing on February 27 after law enforcement officers arrived at the prison in Lyubertsy and removed him from his cell, leaving his personal effects behind.
According to Amnesty, Abbasov was to face an extradition hearing in Moscow on February 28.
Natalya Zvyagina, director of Amnesty International in Russia, said Moscow would be in violation of international law if it handed Abbasov over to Azerbaijani authorities.
Amnesty called on Russia not to deport or extradite individuals to countries where they may face torture and mistreatment.
Abbasov, a former professor at Baku State University, had for years campaigned to preserve the culture and language of the Talysh.
In 2008, he fled Azerbaijan fearing persecution. In 2011, he obtained residency in Russia.
Baku has been persecuting Talysh intellectuals for years.
In 2013, Hilal Mammadov, the editor of the independent newspaper Tolisi Sado (The Voice of Talysh), was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of high treason, incitement of ethnic hatred, and illegal drugs possession.
Human rights activists said the charges were politically motivated.
The Talysh minority’s leader in Azerbaijan, Novruzali Mammadov, who edited the newspaper before Hilal Mammadov, died in prison in 2009 after being found guilty on charges of spying for Iran and sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Critics said those charges were politically motivated as well.