Charges: Manufacturing with the intention of selling counterfeit foreign currency (Article 204.3.1 of the Azerbaijan Criminal Code) & preparation, storage, or distribution of religious extremist materials (Article 167-3.1 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan).
Biography: Gubad Ibadoghlu, a prominent economist based in the United Kingdom, holds the position of Senior Visiting Fellow at the esteemed London School of Economics. Recently, he and his wife, Irada Bayramova, encountered a distressing incident while visiting Dr. Ibadoghlu’s ailing mother in Azerbaijan. As they were driving, their car was rear-ended by another vehicle. Within moments, several masked individuals emerged from the surrounding vehicles and forcefully demanded their exit. Shocked and terrified, Ms. Bayramova attempted to resist the assailants but was subjected to physical harm. Subsequently, they were held incommunicado for hours by the Main Directorate of Combatting Organized Crime.
Although Ms. Bayramova was eventually released, the ordeal continued. When she returned to deliver Dr. Ibadoghlu’s diabetes medication, she was denied entry. After a long wait, the authorities accepted the medication, but it remains uncertain if it was actually administered to him. This situation raises concerns about Dr. Ibadoghlu’s well-being, especially given the Main Directorate of Combatting Organized Crime’s dark history of employing torture and other abusive tactics.
Dr. Ibadoghlu is recognized as an accomplished academic, with a focus on public financial management, good governance, and budget transparency, particularly within Azerbaijan’s oil and gas industry. Throughout his career, he has contributed to esteemed institutions such as the London School of Economics, the University of North Carolina, and the Institute for Advanced Studies in New Jersey. Beyond his academic pursuits, Dr. Ibadoghlu has actively engaged with various civil society organizations, including the Economic Research Center. Sadly, this association was unjustly dissolved by the Azerbaijani authorities in 2014, prompting Dr. Ibadoghlu’s exile in 2017.
Despite his exile, Dr. Ibadoghlu remains deeply committed to Azerbaijani social and political affairs. He currently serves as Chairman of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Prosperity Movement, established in 2014. Additionally, he shares his insights on corruption, politics, and economics in Azerbaijan through different platforms, including Facebook and his own YouTube channel, BizTV, which boasts over 60,000 subscribers. In June 2023, just before his ill-fated return to Azerbaijan, Dr. Ibadoghlu established the Azerbaijani Youth Education Foundation in the UK, aiming to educate and empower young Azerbaijanis. However, his efforts to register the group as a political party have been met with obstacles.
Nevertheless, the situation took a worrisome turn when Dr. Ibadoghlu proclaimed that he was being followed shortly before his detention. Subsequently, he was falsely charged with involvement in the production, acquisition, or sale of counterfeit money by an organized group. On July 24, 2023, Baku’s Narimanov District Court ordered his detention for nearly four months pending investigation. Conviction on these baseless charges could lead to a lengthy prison sentence of up to 12 years. Surprisingly, an additional charge was later added under Article 167-3.1 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan, accusing Dr. Ibadoghlu of preparing, storing, or distributing religious extremist materials, supposedly found in his office.
Dr. Ibadoghlu’s health has been adversely affected during his detention due to his high blood pressure and diabetes. Although he has been granted some access to his medication, it remains unclear if he has received the full extent of the required treatment. Irregular access to clean water and proper nutrition further contributes to his deteriorating well-being. Regrettably, his health assessment was conducted more than a month after his detention, on August 3, 2023. Furthermore, the detention facility’s conditions are deplorable, characterized by overcrowded cells, lack of air conditioning, absence of beds, and pervasive smoking by inmates, all compounded by soaring summer temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
These events involving Dr. Ibadoghlu and Ms. Bayramova serve as yet another disturbing example of the Main Directorate of Combatting Organized Crime’s objectionable tactics. They demand immediate attention and global watchfulness to safeguard the rights and well-being of these individuals.
Advocacy Partner: Freedom Now
Advocate: Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)