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ACTION ALERT: Free Monear Eldrissy, Jailed in Azerbaijan

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A British citizen, Monear Eldrissy, has been jailed in Azerbaijan for 12 years in a secret trial. Find out what you can do to campaign for his release.

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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1 July 2005

ACTION ALERT: Free Monear Eldrissy, Jailed in Azerbaijan

Background

On 13 June 2005, a British citizen, Monear Eldrissy, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in Baku, Azerbaijan after being found guilty of charges related to terrorism in a secret trial, denying the most basic requirements of due process.

Monear Eldrissy (27) was arrested and detained in Baku on 15 October 2005, a day before he was due to return home to Britain. The same night, Anti-Terrorist Police in London raided Monear's home, his mother's home and his in-laws home. The raids took place at 11pm and Monear's entire family including his mother, his 2 year old son and 11 year old sister were forced out of their home by the Police while the search took place. They were not allowed take any money with them and were left to roam the streets of London until 4 am when they reached Monear's home. They were allowed to return three days later only to find the locks of their home had been changed.

We have very serious concerns about the relationship between the British and Azeri authorities in detaining Monear. The warrant for the search was issued on 29 September 2004 indicating that Monear was already under surveillance. Nevertheless, the authorities allowed him to travel to Baku on 2 October. On 15 October, Monear spoke to his wife arranging for her to collect him at the airport the following day. A few hours later he was arrested with his home being raided that very night.

The British government has been very reluctant to come to Monear's assistance. Following his arrest and detention, he was not visited by any British consular or Foreign Office officials for over two months and consequently did not have any legal representation during that time. Since then, British officials have visited him only after almost daily phonecalls from his wife. The trial, which began in April 2005, was held in complete secrecy, Monear was unable to communicate effectively with his state-appointed lawyer and no British officials were granted permission to attend the hearings.

Monear is being held in the notorious Bailov prison which has been routinely condemned by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. In his 2000 report, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture concluded that torture in Azerbaijan was widespread and that detainees assumed that they would be tortured. The report concluded that this fostered detainees\\\\\\\\\\\\\' acquiescence in investigators\\\\\\\\\\\\\' demands and arguably constituted mental torture. In November 2001, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern at many issues including continuing reports of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; the failure to ensure application of international standards to prevent torture; reports that detainees\\\\\\\\\\\\\' rights of access to legal counsel, medical advice and family visits were not always respected and prison overcrowding. Yet, in a letter from Monear to his wife in February 2005, he told her that the British Vice-Consul Derek Lavery informed him that the prisons in Azerbaijan were “the best in the world”.

Monear is a British citizen who has found himself trapped in a foreign land, subjected to various abuses of his basic rights leading to a frankly ridiculous 'trial' and abandoned by his government. The British government has at best failed to protect the rights of a British citizen abroad and at worst, colluded in the entrapment and detention of a British citizen in a foreign prison notorious for its use of torture and mistreatment. Monear is only the latest in a long line of British Muslims who have been abandoned by the British government. Contrast the minimalist role played by the Foreign Office in Monear's case with its extremely active efforts to secure the release of another British citizen, Almas Guliyeva, who was arrested in Baku in early June 2005. After three weeks, Mrs Guliyeva was released by the Azeris following extreme public and private pressure from the Foreign Office.

What you can do to help:

1) Write to both the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw and the British Ambassador to Azerbaijan, demanding that the Foreign Office publicly support Monear and pressure the Azeri authorities to release him. Demand that all British citizens are treated equally and that the current dual-track system of justice, whereby British Muslims are treated differently from Britons of other faiths or no faith, be abandoned. A sample letter is below.


Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH


H.E. Laurie Bristow
British Embassy
45 Khagani Street
AZ1010 Baku
Azerbaijan
Tel 00994124975188/89
Fax 0094124922739
Email: Derek.lavery@fco.gov.uk
office@britemb.baku.az

2) Contact the Azeri Embassy in your country and demand that Monear Eldrissy be immediately and unconditionally released.

H.E. Rafael Ibrahimov
Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan
4 Kensington Court,
London W8 5DL.

Tel: 020 7938 5482
Fax: 020 7937 1783


3) Contact your MP, ask them to contact the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw and demand that he call for the immediate and unconditional release of Monear Eldrissy.

You can contact your MP by ringing the House of Commons switchboard 020 7219 300, ask to be put through to you MP.



[Your Name]

[Your Address]



[Date]


Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH


Dear Mr Straw:

Re: Monear Eldrissy, British Citizen Jailed in Baku

I have made myself aware of the case of Monear Eldrissy, a fellow British citizen who was jailed last month in Baku for 12 years after being convicted on charges related to terrorism in a secret trial.



Monear was born and raised in the UK and is married to a British woman and has a 3-year old son. He is a law-abiding citizen who has never been in trouble with the police. I am gravely concerned at the complete inaction of the FCO in attempting to secure Monear's release or in even securing his right to due process.

Monear was not seen by any FCO or Consular officials for at least two months following his initial arrest and detention in October 2005. Due to this inaction, Monear was without legal representation for two months in detention. Since that time, the FCO has been very reluctant to visit Monear and only under tremendous pressure from Monear's wife have they visited him. Furthermore, I am extremely concerned that the FCO were content to accept the Azeri authorities' refusal to allow them to attend the trial of a British citizen.

A public trial is one of the fundamental elements of due process which was denied to Monear. He had a state-appointed lawyer who did not speak any English and Monear also complained about the translations given by his translator. Yet, the FCO did not pressure the Azeris to allow them to attend the trial. This is despite the fact that according to the FCO's own website, the “[Azeri] Judiciary does not function independently of the executive, laws are applied inconsistently, and the judiciary is widely believed to be inefficient and corrupt”.

Azerbaijan is a country which is routinely condemned by the UN, the Council of Europe, and international NGOs such as Human Rights Watch for its abysmal human rights record, not least of all its use of torture and abuse of prisoners. I am appalled that the FCO has abandoned one of its citizens in the hands of such a cruel regime.

I am terrified that the British government seems to have adopted a dual-track system of justice in defending the rights of its citizens abroad; one rule for British Muslims and another for Britons of other faiths or no faith. A clear example of this is the FCO's immense efforts in both private and public to support Mrs Almas Guliyeva, a British woman who was detained by the Azeris last month. Due to the FCO's hard work, Mrs Guliyeva was released after three weeks in detention. Contrast this with the FCO's abandonment of Monear, who has been in detention since October 2004.

I demand that all British citizens be treated equally, irrespective of faith, and that your office publicly pressure the Azeri authorities for the immediate and unconditional release of Monear Eldrissy.





Yours sincerely,

____________________

[Your Name]


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