NGO leaders condemn “spy mania” by authorities

Representatives of several NGOs held a press conference on the recent arrests of activists. Participants noted a steady deterioration of situation in the  institutions of civil society over the last 4-5 years. The situation worsened particularly after amendments to the legislation at the end of last year. The recent arrests of prominent activists, freezing their bank accounts have caused serious concern among civil society. “Charges against these people  have been falsified, their arrests were illegal, and we will protect the rights by all legitimate means,”  said a member of the Center for Economic Research Gubad Ibadoglu.

He also  condemned the pro-government media  that insult and discredit civil society and its prominent representatives. To solve the problems of civil society  its  consolidation and dialogue with the authorities is important.  The meeting approved the idea of ​​setting up a working group to address the issue of political prisoners.  The press conference participants rejected the accusations of the authorities in the use of foreign grants to “anti-state activities.” Reduction  of the aid  of foreign donors was noted. For example, last year only 35% of grants  were allocated to civil society by international donors. At the same time, 90% of the grants received formal structures and pro-government NGOs.

Currently, various ministries of the country themselves implement 51 projects funded by foreign grants. They  were received from the EU, Germany, South Korea, Japan and others. “When the grants  are given to official pro-government structures and NGOs, there is no “secret deals”, and 10% of grants  provided for independent NGOs immediately become anti-state,” said Ibadoglu.

The press conference condemned the search for “spies” in the NGO sector. “We do not understand these arrests, and the world does not understand them. The civilian sector in Azerbaijan has never been so heavy as it is now, ” said the human rights activist Arzu Abdullayeva.  She believes that the situation can be changed by means of dialogue, which is necessary between civil society and the authorities.

With regard to the Working Group on the political prisoners, the representatives  of civil in this group should choose civil society itself, and not the government should appoint  them. The group should be formed on the basis of discussions between representatives of civil society, government and the Council of Europe, said Abdullayeva.-

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