What Intiqam Aliyev, an Azerbaijani human rights lawyer, had gone through at the hands of the police at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport demonstrates that little has changed in Turkey on fundamental rights. The police officers detained Aliyev with charges of insulting an officer, ill-treated and deported him.
Intiqam Aliyev is the head of the Legal Education Association and a human rights lawyer. He is a highly respected human rights defender both in his country and abroad.
Indeed, the ordeal he had to go through began with his journey back home from Vilnius, where he had attended an OSCE-organized meeting. He was flying back to Baku via Istanbul on December 6, 2011.
Detained for insulting an officer
According to Intiqam Aliyev the customs officer who was checking his documents was rude to him and did not give his passport back. Intiqam reacted to him and they had an argument. Another police approached them and asked Aliyev to apologize. He said that it was the customs officer who had to apologize. And with his arrest and detention for insulting the officer, the story began.
On Tuesday evening I got a call from the Human Rights House in Norway informing me about the incident. I immediately asked a lawyer to go to the airport to represent Aliyev. He was only able to see him after midnight, handcuffed, brought back from the medical examination. A while later the lawyer informed me that if we could submit an official document showing that he is actually a lawyer, he would be released. We began searching a document for him.
About an hour later, our lawyer called back saying that there is a possibility of a settlement, that both sides were ready to drop their complaints.
We were relieved and ready to meet Intiqam and send him back to his country, full of hope that he would be released. All our hopes went down the sink with the news that the "ambitious" prosecutor rejected the settlement saying "I will not let anyone insult my officer"! At 06.30 am, the lawyer informed us that Intiqam Aliyev would be deported.
Let's accept that there was an argument and Intiqam Aliyev was faulty. And let's pretend that the crime of insulting the officer was commited. Still, I wonder what the serious "political and administrative necessities" for a decision for his deportation were. How did he disturb the public order by arguing with the police? In my opinion the only order that was disturbed was their arbitrary use of power exerted on a foreign citizen to intimidate with the confidence that no one would know. Well, it wasn't the case this time; we did!
Aliyev would be forcefully deported to a country where he was about to go before detained. If a deportation order is be issued he would face serious problems when he wanted to travel to or via Turkey. And even worse, he would have a record of deportation.
The labyrinth of bureaucracy
In Istanbul the Bar, Lawyers' Rights Center and other lawyers intervened in the case. OSCE, The Commissioner for Human Rights of Council of Europe and human rights organizations were informed of the latest developments.
On Wednesday, I spent the whole day phoning the public authorities which I deemed relevant to inform them about Aliyev's situation and try to stop the scandalous deportation order. Starting from the Governor's office, everyone passed the balled to another. The Human Rights Council directed me to the local authority of the airport district, and they suggested that I should call the foreigners' unit of the airport police.
With every call, I explained the situation in every detail and the reply was the same: "You should be calling this department for your problem".
The next step was the Police Headquarters in Ankara. After having to pass through three departments, I landed in the deportation unit. I guess I should have been thankful, for they explained that I needed to apply in writing.
Yet, the officer did not provide me with any direct fax numbers or an e-mail address for the department. "You can send it to the fax or e-mail that is on our website"! Allright...
Thinking it would help, I tried the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Needless to say, I was once again sent from one phone to another. None of the human-rights related offices picked up the phone either. The only people I was able to talk were the ones that I personally knew. Unfortunately, they were not able to help either.
Lesson learnt - once again: As an ordinary citizen, it is almost impossible to access the state in emercency situations
Allegation of police violence
Wednesday afternoon brought the news that İntiqam Aliyev would be deported to Baku the same night. Human Rights House sent appeals to the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs as well as the Embassy in Oslo, OSCE and UN. The letters called for stopping the deportation.
Meanwhile, Intiqam Aliyev was able to send an information saying that he was beaten by an officer. He had wanted his passport back and the reply he got was beatings and threats: "if you say one more word, I'll blow your head off".
We were trying to bring the pieces of information together through a hectic phone and mail traffic between Baku, Oslo and Istanbul when we received another news from the airport. Intiqam said that he was dragged in a cabin and beaten again by the same officer when he had tried to inform the other airport staff that he had been beaten.
At that point, our only concern was to make sure that Intiqam Aliyev goes back to his country safe and sound. We would pursue justice later, after we know that he is back home.
Finally the plane carrying Intiqam Aliyev landed to Baku, where several human rights defenders and press were waiting him. He is determined to fight for justice both in Azerbaijan and in Turkey. So are we. (ÖD)
09 Dec 2011, Friday
* To watch İntigam Aliyev explaining to the press at the Baku airport click here.