European Parliament calls for investigation into 'Azerbaijani laundromat'

17:58 • 14.09.17



The European parliament has called for an investigation into revelations by the Guardian and media partners that Azerbaijan ran a secret $2.9bn (£2.2bn) slush fund to pay influential Europeans to paint a positive image of the authoritarian regime.


MEPs have demanded a “comprehensive” investigation into “attempts by Azerbaijan and other autocratic regimes ... to influence European decision-makers through illicit means”, following a last-minute amendment to a report on corruption, the Guardian reports.


In a separate move, the head of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, called for unprecedented legal action against Azerbaijan over its refusal to release a political prisoner in defiance of the European court on human rights.


The Council of Europe and ECHR are not part of the EU, but the coincidence in timing shows how political repression and corruption in Azerbaijan is rising up the agenda of Europe’s institutions.


Jagland’s intervention centres on opposition leader Ilgar Mammadov, who was jailed for organising and taking part in demonstrations in 2013. Judges at the ECHR found he was jailed for criticising Azerbaijani authorities but the government has refused to release him.

 

At a meeting of Council of Europe ambassadors on Wednesday, Jagland called for the launch of legal proceedings against Azerbaijan for flouting ECHR court judgments – an unprecedented step in the 68-year history of the Council of Europe.


“We cannot have political prisoners in Europe and we cannot have a situation in which Azerbaijan continues to deprive Mammadov of his liberty against the judgment of the highest court – which clearly stated his arrest and detention were arbitrary,” Jagland said in a statement released to the Guardian. “The time has come for Azerbaijan to think hard about its obligations as a member of the Council of Europe and whether it still wants to fulfil them.”

 

Azerbaijan signed the European Convention of Human Rights in 2001 but its refusal to implement ECHR rulings has contributed to a slow-burning crisis for the court.

 

Jagland wants to invoke the Council of Europe convention’s article 46.4, which could ultimately lead to Azerbaijan being ejected from the human rights body. This “nuclear option” has never been used before and would require action from European foreign ministers, following a court assessment.





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