Indeed they are. Or at least, according to the head of the social- political department of the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan Ali Hasanov. You remember the "incident" with European Commission Vice- President Neelie Kroes during her visit to Baku for the Internet Governance Forum? No, not the one with her computer hacked (yes, that too happened in case you missed it!) but when she was not allowed to meet with the political prisoners. According to Ms. Kroes, President Aliyev, gave his approval. However, when Ms. Kroes showed up at the jail gates together with the head of EU delegation to Azerbaijan Roland Kobia, she was not allowed into the prison.
In an interview with local media outlet Turan, Ali Hasanov- i-know-it- all" not only refuted Ms. Kroes's original statement regarding original approval from the president but called the meeting with political prisoners a "petty matter". "Mr. President" Hasanov said, "did not engage in such petty matters" adding that meetings at jails are procedural based on the sentence of each convict.
Ehm... Thank you for reminding us Mr. Hasanov but I am pretty sure, when a President gives his approval (at least in Azerbaijani) things simply happen. But what we also learn from the same interview is apparent independence of state institutions as Ministry of Justice even though, we all know how ministries operate in Azerbaijan and under whose auspices.
Needles to say that according to Mr. Hasanov, Azerbaijan has free Internet, free journalists, freedom of expression and etc.
Perhaps, a reality check is what Mr. Hasanov needs. I wonder if President agrees with Mr. Hasanov on calling political prisoners "petty matters" especially given how much importance he attaches to the country's image abroad. Though, given the President never himself attended the IGF 2012 and chose to send a letter while instead opting to attend next door BAKUTEL exhibition is proof that political prisoners as well as other pressing issues in Azerbaijan are perhaps "petty matters" for some...