More than 100 servicemen were tortured during the investigation of the so-called 'Tartar' spy ring, Lieutenant General of Justice Khanlar Valiyev, deputy prosecutor general and military prosecutor of Azerbaijan, admitted to local media on November 1.
The ‘Tartar affair’ in May-June 2017 in the Tartar district of Azerbaijan involved mass torture of military personnel who were suspected of spying for Armenia. According to Azerbaijani human rights activists, more than 100 soldiers and officers were tortured. According to human rights activist Oktay Gulaliyev, nine servicemen died, unable to withstand the torture.
Retired colonel-lieutenant Saleh Gafarov had his hands and feet tied, he was then drenched in water and electric shocked, his nails were torn out, his jaw was broken and he was then thrown, still tied, from the second floor, his wife recalls of what she heard in court. After that, they continued to torture him until he fell into a coma.
According to the former company commander Captain Vagif Abdullayev, he was “starved, stripped naked and drenched with cold water, beaten with fittings, tortured with electric shocks,” and then dismissed from the army.
In 2019, the details of the cases, in particular, the mass torture, began to be gradually revealed to the general public. The investigation by the Military Prosecutor's Office revealed that in the period leading up to the investigation, the Military Prosecutor's Office used physical violence against individuals suspected of high treason, as well as very serious coercive measures. As a result, one person died before the criminal case was started.
"Personally, I went to the military unit, together with the deputy military prosecutor, the curator of the investigation Shafahat Imranov, as well as the former First Deputy Prosecutor General Rustam Usubov. I found out that there was indeed massive illegal torture of servicemen. Therefore, a criminal case was launched immediately. At my request, a large brigade of doctors from the medical service of the Ministry of Defence arrived," Valiyev said.
According to him, doctors examined the people there and evaluated which people needed how much treatment. "Some people were evacuated to the central hospital because they had been subjected to severe physical violence. The lives of many of those people were saved," he said.
"In that case, 16 different officials were detained, then prosecuted, and various long-term sentences were handed down. They also appealed the verdicts. However, neither the appellate court nor the court of cassation accepted those complaints. We believe that the investigating authorities had made well-founded and legitimate allegations against them. The verdicts were upheld," he said.
According to media reports, at least 25 servicemen are currently in prison as part of the spy ring, serving sentences on charges of high treason, assaults on senior officers and many other related articles. The convicted soldiers have appealed their verdicts to the Supreme Court. Both the appellate and cassation stages upheld the convictions as they were judged well-founded and lawful.
“We brought some people to justice during the investigation," Valiyev said. "But then we found out that these people are not guilty. Therefore, the criminal case against them was terminated. I want to say that the Military Prosecutor's Office tried to be objective. I think it has been achieved," he said
"This is a black stain for every Azerbaijani," he admitted. "The owner of this stain does not want to be the parent of the child. But what can be done? This has happened before. Such people were fought against, prosecuted and brought to justice. Otherwise, if our army had not been cleansed, perhaps we would have been in a very bad situation and could not have won this victory. This is how a division of the Soviet army was sold out during World War II,” he said, defending the espionage trials.