A selection of key paragraphs can be found below the judgment.
71. As regards the question of whether the applicants’ continued pre-trial detention pursued an ulterior purpose, the Court has already found in the case of Rashad Hasanov and Others (cited above, §§ 122‑24) that the joint public statement of 8 March 2013 issued by the Prosecutor General’s Office and the MNS clearly targeted NIDA and its members, stating that “illegal attempts to undermine the social-political stability established in the country have recently been made by some radical destructive forces”. It is also clear from the above-mentioned statement that from the very beginning of the criminal proceedings,within the framework of which the applicants were kept in pre‑trial detention, the law-enforcement authorities tried to link the applicants’ alleged possession of narcotic substances and Molotov cocktails to their membership in NIDA by stating, without any reservation, that “since mid-2012 all three individuals, being addicted to narcotic substances and having become members of NIDA through the Internet, had actively participated in a number of the organisation’s illegal activities” (see paragraph 14 above) (see Rashad Hasanov and Others, cited above, § 122).
72. The Court furthermore held that the prosecution authorities intended to demonstrate that NIDA and its members were “destructive forces” and an organisation carrying out “a number of illegal activities”, solely relying on the fact that narcotic substances and Molotov cocktails had allegedly been found in the flats of NIDA members (ibid., § 123).
73. The Court also considers that the institution of criminal proceedings against the applicants by the prosecuting authorities and their subsequent pre-trial detention were used by the domestic authorities to prevent the organisation of further protests against the government. In that connection, the Court attaches weight to the timing of the institution of criminal proceedings against the applicants on the eve of the demonstration scheduled for 10 March 2013, following a series of demonstrations against the government in which the applicants and other members of NIDA had actively participated (compare Mammadli v. Azerbaijan, no. 47145/14, § 102, 19 April 2018, and Ibrahimov and Mammadov v. Azerbaijan, nos. 63571/16 and 5 others, § 153, 13 February 2020). The Court also does not lose sight of the fact that the prosecuting authorities in their statement of 8 March 2013 tried to portray twenty-eight leaflets worded “democracy urgently needed, tel: + 994, address: Azerbaijan” (təcili demokratiya tələb olunur, tel : + 994, ünvan: Azərbaycan), found in the first applicant’s flat, as illegal material proving the applicants’ intention to incite violence and civil unrest during the unlawful demonstration scheduled for 10 March 2013 (see paragraph 14 above).
74. The Court considers that the above‑mentioned elements are sufficient to enable it to conclude that there was an ulterior purpose in the applicants’ pre-trial detention; namely, it was aiming at punishing and silencing NIDA members for their active involvement in the demonstrations held against the government regarding the deaths of soldiers serving in the army.
75. The Court must now determine whether the ulterior purpose in question was the predominant purpose of the restriction of the applicants’ right to liberty. It reiterates that precisely which purpose is predominant in a given case depends on all the relevant circumstances. In assessing that point, the Court will have regard to the nature and degree of reprehensibility of the alleged ulterior purpose, and will bear in mind the fact that the Convention was designed to maintain and promote the ideals and values of a democratic society governed by the rule of law (see Merabishvili, cited above, § 307).
76. In that regard, the applicants’ case should be viewed against the backdrop of the arbitrary arrest and detention of government critics, civil society activists and human‑rights defenders in the country. The Court points out that in the case of Aliyev (cited above, § 223) it found that its judgments in a series of similar cases reflected a pattern of arbitrary arrest and detention of government critics, civil society activists and human-rights defenders through retaliatory prosecutions and misuse of the criminal law in breach of Article 18. The Court reaffirmed this finding in its recent judgments relating to the arrest and detention of civil society activists, including members of NIDA (see Natig Jafarov v. Azerbaijan, no. 64581/16, §§ 64-70, 7 November 2019; Ibrahimov and Mammadov, cited above, §§ 151-58; and Khadija Ismayilova v. Azerbaijan (no. 2), no. 30778/15, §§ 113-20, 27 February 2020) and considers that the applicants’ situation in the present case reflects this pattern.
79. Bearing in mind all the circumstances of the case, the Court is satisfied that the ulterior purpose of the restriction of the applicants’ liberty resulting in their continued pre-trial detention constituted the predominant purpose, which was to punish and silence NIDA members for their active involvement in the demonstrations held against the government regarding deaths of soldiers serving in the army.
80. There has accordingly been a violation of Article 18 of the Convention, taken in conjunction with Article 5 § 3.