Human Rights Groups Claim 900 Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Currently–20,000 prisoners occupy Azerbaijan’s prisons–reported the latest issue of the Baku-based "525 Gazeta" newspaper.

Even though Press Secretary of the Department on Sentence Execution of the Justice Ministry of Azerbaijan Niyazi Mamedov claimed that all prisoners are serving sentences for ordinary crimes and crimes against the state–various human rights organizations say that at least 900 of them are imprisoned for political reasons.

Prisoners are kept in the country’s 12 penitentiaries. In 1997–20 prisoners were sentenced to death–a number half that of the previous year.

As of August 1997–55 prisoners had died from torture and disease–at the Bailov prison.

Radio Liberty Azerbaijan Service reported that compared with previous years the number of death cases in prisons have dropped–and that the main reason of death in prison was tuberculosis.

According to other reports–on Monday–Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan Eldar Gasanov summoned to his office Director of the Human Rights Protection Center Eldar Zeynalov and threatened to sue him for generating and disseminating a report about political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

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