UPDATE: (3 November 2008) Abbas Lisani was released from prison on 29 October 2008. On 7 October, Lisani was interrogated for 20 hours by intelligence officers and threatened that if he organizes any movements in Azerbaijan after being released, he will be immediately arrested.
UPDATE: (8 September 2008) Abbas Lisani, who was imprisoned in Ahar Prison during his trial, was transferred suddenly and illegally on 6 March 2008 to Yazd. Lisani’s transfer is in direct violation of Article 233 of the Prisoners’ Rights Manual as the Revolutionary Court that handed down his one-year sentence has given no ruling to transfer him to another prison.
According to Article 233, which was approved in November 2005, all accused defendants must be kept incarcerated in the same jurisdiction as they were arraigned or sentenced, unless the ruling court assigns a different facility for the duration of the sentence.
Abbas Lisani (39) is an Azerbaijani activist from the city of Ardebil. He is serving multiple prison sentences following prosecutions for his peaceful activities promoting respect for the cultural and linguistic rights of the Azerbaijani ethnic minority.
Lisani is currently finishing an 18- month sentence in Ahar prison for his conviction by the Revolutionary Court on charges relating to his participation in public protests in May 2006. He faces another conviction and sentence of one year imprisonment for participating in a cultural celebration. He suffers from serious medical complications including stomach and kidney problems and damaged ribs due to a beating by an intelligence ministry agent.
According to his wife, Roghieh Mohammad-Alizadeh, prison authorities plan to transfer Lisani to a prison in the central city of Yazd, some 600 miles away, for the remainder of his prison term. This would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Lisani’s family to visit him and ascertain his health and safety.
Lisani actively promoted recognition of the cultural rights of the Azerbaijani minority by participating in celebrations such as annual gatherings at the Babak Castle honoring Babak Khorramdin, an Azerbaijani and Iranian hero from the Ninth Century. On September 15, 2007, Branch 6 of East Azerbaijan Appeals Court sentenced him to one year in prison for his participation in the Babak Castle event in August 2005. He was charged with “acting against national security.”
Another court had earlier convicted Lisani for his presence during public protests in Ardebil on May 27, 2006. The court prosecuted Lisani for participating “in an illegal gathering,” and allegedly urging destruction of public property. In his appeal, Lisani said the court had ignored videotapes of the demonstration showing he not only did not call on protestors to engage in violent acts or destruction of public property, but instead urged calm. Ignoring this evidence, the appeals court sentenced him to 18 months in prison and 50 lashes.
Lisani has a history of being detained, harassed, and severely beaten by intelligence agents. In August 2003, security forces detained Lisani after his participation in a peaceful gathering at Babak Castle. After more than three weeks of detention, he was released on bail for the amount of 50 million Rials (US$5,500).
On June 22, 2004, Lisani participated in a peaceful sit-in protest at the Sarcheshmeh Mosque in Ardebil. Intelligence agents broke up the sit-in violently. Lisani suffered several major injuries as a result, including broken ribs and damage to his left kidney. His left lung was punctured and he fainted after intelligence agents covered his face with a blanket, apparently attempting to suffocate him. According to his associates, he was subsequently held in solitary confinement for 2 days without any medical attention. When he was brought in front of a Revolutionary Court Judge, the Judge ordered his detention for a month and refused medical release.
From June 3 to September 26, 2006 Lisani spent four months in detention following public protests in May. He was arrested on October 31, 2006 and is currently serving his multiple sentences.