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Gay Detainees Freed, Baku Says

Status of those sent for STD treatment unclear, as more allegations emerge about police torture of gays and transgender women.

4 October 2017

Authorities in Azerbaijan say all 83 people rounded up in a series of raids in Baku last month have been released from custody, although 32 with sexually transmitted diseases were sent for medical treatment, The Associated Press reports.

 

The Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s office said in a statement yesterday that the raids targeted sex workers and other accused of violating public order and spreading infectious diseases.

 

Those detained were reportedly gay men and transgender women. Some accused police of beating and torturing them and said they were pressured to reveal the names of their sexual partners.

 

There are also doubts about official statements on the high number of detainees said to be carriers of sexually transmitted diseases. The authorities yesterday said 12 people were diagnosed with HIV, of whom six had AIDS.

 

 

However, the AIDS Center at the Azerbaijan Ministry of Health told reporters they had not conducted HIV tests on any of the detainees, according to Human Rights Watch, and two of those rounded up told HRW they had not been given any medical tests.

 

HRW said released detainees and lawyers described how some detainees were abused. One 21-year-old man who said police beat and tortured him with electric shocks said officers of the Organized Crime unit gave him instructions before freeing him: “I was ordered to cooperate with police as an informer and regularly update police on gays, their gathering areas, and identify rich gays.”

 

Others also told HRW and the media their interrogators particularly wanted information on their wealthy sex work clients.

 

Interior Ministry spokesman Ehsan Zahidov said last week that public complaints about sex workers were the main reason for the raids.

 

“People complain that such people walk around us, walk in our streets, and sit in our cafés. ‘These are people who do not fit our nation, our state, our mentality, please take action against them,’ ” Zahidov told EurasiaNet.org.

 

  • One former detainee said he was held for nine days in the Interior Ministry’s Organized Crime Department and was beaten on the head, knees, and arms. A BuzzFeed reporter said his face and arms showed signs of bruising. He said he was asked about his sexual partners and wealthy clients, and forced to sign documents without being allowed to read them.

 

  • The director of the Health Ministry AIDS Center said the authorities needed a court order to conduct AIDS tests. Lawyers for some of the detainees told HRW no court orders had so far been issued to their clients.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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