ISTANBUL, Turkey — Azerbaijani opposition activist Bayram Mammadov has been found dead in Istanbul in an apparent drowning.
Mammadov’s body was pulled from the sea on May 2, hours after he disappeared into the water on Istanbul’s Asian side while reportedly trying to retrieve his slippers.
According to Istanbul police, a friend later filed a missing person’s report and identified the body of the 25-year-old on May 4.
BBC Turkish reported an investigation had been launched but an initial police report did not describe it as a suspicious death.
Some Azerbaijani activists are not ruling out foul play and questioned the idea Mammadov fell into the sea or may have committed suicide.
One of Mammadov’s friends in Istanbul, Elgih Qahraman, told RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service that the opposition NIDA youth movement member was planning to visit Azerbaijan in the coming days.
Mammadov, along with another pro-democracy activist, Giyas Ibrahimov, made headlines in May 2016 after painting „Happy Slaves‘ Day“ on a monument in Baku to late President Heydar Aliyev, the father of the current president.
Both were subsequently sentenced to 10 years in prison on drug charges, which both have denied. Mammadov had said he was tortured into making a confession.
Amnesty International has recognized the two activists as prisoners of conscience, saying that the drug charges against them were fabricated with the purpose of punishing them for their political activities.
In March 2019, President Ilham Aliyev pardoned Mammadov and Ibrahimov in an amnesty along with more than 400 people who had been convicted of crimes in the South Caucasus state.