Azerbaijan, Baku /corr. Trend K.Zarbaliyeva / Presently, twenty-six inmates at Gobustan Prison are on hunger-strike. On 29 June, Elchin Amiraslanov and Farrukh Kerimov, who are sentenced to life imprisonment, ceased the strike, said the Deputy Justice Minister of Azerbaijan, Chief of Penal System, Nazim Alekperov.
The Deputy Minister assessed the hunger-strike on the eve of the PACE session as pressure on Azerbaijan. In addition, Alekperov said that the prisoners wanted to attract the attention of PACE parliamentarians. "The problems of those prisoners should be resolved by courts. This is the decision of the Constitutional Court. Consider the case of Samir Hajiyev who was sentenced to life imprisonment, the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan sentenced him to fifteen years imprisonment. Other prisoners should also appeal to the courts. Another way is to be pardoned by the President. The Council of Europe recommended that the prisoner cases be reconsidered. Azerbaijani courts did not refuse to reconsider their cases," Alekperov said.
In addition, he added that the number of the prisoners who went on hunger-strike is overstated in press.
Alekperov stressed that the prisoners have the right to hunger-strike, but they break the conditions of the regime. "We do not make decisions with regards to those who break the conditions, taking into consideration the difficulty of the problem and that the problem is in the stage of resolution," the Minister said.
The information that the Head of the Prison puts pressure on the prisoners and brings troops to the prison does not correspond with reality, Alekperov said. "The prisoners who went on hunger-strike are kept in one cell. We try to explain to them that it is not an accurate way to resolve the problem. Each day we suggest breakfast, lunch, and dinner to them," the Deputy Minister said.
He considers that interested parties want to promote a false view on Gobustan Prison.
According to relatives of the prisoners, over fifty inmates, whose death sentences were replaced by life imprisonment, went on hunger-strike on 18 June. However, according to the Penitentiary Service, thirty-eight inmates went on hunger-strike on 20 June. Inmates sentenced to life imprisonment after 2000 are among the strikers. They also demand their sentences be reduced to fifteen years.
Eighty-four convicts sentenced to life imprisonment are serving their sentences in Gobustan Closed Prison. After the abolishment of the death penalty the number increased to 128.
The inmates believe that their sentences should be replaced by the harshest punishment of the country which is fifteen years imprisonment.
The decision of the European Court on Human Rights relating to the appeal of Alikram Humbatov says that the replacement of the death sentence with life imprisonment corresponds to the European Convention. It was noted that life imprisonment is more humane and much better than the death sentence.