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Man Who Brutally Killed LGBTQ+ Activist Sentenced to 9.5 Years

Avaz Hafizli
LGBTQ+ rights activist Avaz Hafizli

Avaz Hafizli was an outspoken LGBTQ+ activist in Azerbaijan. 


A court in Azerbaijan has sentenced the cousin of an LGBTQ rights activist to nine years and six months in prison for his murder.

Avaz Hafizli, a 24-year-old activist and journalist, was killed in the capital of Baku on February 22.

In the Baku court, Hafizli's 24-year-old cousin, Amrulla Gulaliyev, admitted to killing his cousin over Hafizli's sexuality, regional news outlet OC Media reports. Gulaliyev said he had gone to Hafizli's house to give him a "final warning."

"I told him to return to turn from this path [homosexuality], and he said 'It's my life, go and do your job,'" Gulaliyev told the court, according to OC Media. "I took a knife from the kitchen and attacked him."

The outlet notes that those convicted of murder in Azerbaijan can face 9-14 years in prison. However, if the person exempts a certain level of brutality in the murder, they can be sentenced to 14-20 years or even sentenced to life.

During the trial, Hafizli's mother testified that he had been stabbed in his sleep as the mattress had been soaked in blood and that he then appeared to have tried to flee from his cousin's attack.

The activist's body was found outside. His throat had been slit and he had been castrated.

Human rights activists in the country have called out the court's decision, calling out the prison sentence.

LGBTQ+ rights activist Gulnara Mehdiyeva said that after Gulaliyev's confession, including that he stabbed his cousin in his sleep, that the court should have considered the crime as reaching that level of brutality, according to OC Media.

Activists and media had been barred from attending many of the trial's hearings, according to PinkNews.

Hafizli had been an outspoken critic of Azerbaijan's LGBTQ+ record. He once chained himself to the gate of the Prosecutor General's Office in Baku over the lack of hate crime protections for LGBTQ+ people. Hafizli even organized the funeral of a trans sex worker after she was murdered -- her family had refused to claim her body up.

"It is safe to say that the act itself was directed to Avaz's identity as gay person," a friend told PinkNews about Hafizli's death. "If that is not a statement of 'you are not a man' then for what purpose [would they] cut off his penis?"

In a statement, LGBTQ+ activist Lili Nazarov said, "The culprits of his death are society, the Azerbaijani government, and state security agencies ... Every year, dozens of LGBTQI+ [people] are slaughtered because they are LGBTQI+," reports the website. "How many more people must be slain in order to guarantee our safety and rights?"

"Who will be killed next?" they continued.

Azerbaijan consistently ranks at the bottom of ILGA-Europe's annual ranking of LGBTQ+ rights across the continent.

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