Last Updated: Friday, 25 July 2014, 12:52 GMT

Annual Prison Census 2008: Azerbaijan

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 4 December 2008
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2008: Azerbaijan, 4 December 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/494a40222d.html [accessed 26 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Journalists in prison as of December 1, 2008

AZERBAIJAN: 5

Sakit Zakhidov, Azadlyg
IMPRISONED: June 23, 2006

On October 4, 2006, a Baku court convicted Zakhidov on a drug-possession charge and sentenced him to three years in prison. He was being held in the Bailovsk Prison in Baku.

Police arrested the prominent reporter and satirist for the Baku-based pro-opposition daily Azadlyg, and charged him with possession of heroin with intent to sell. Zakhidov denied the charge and said a police officer placed the drugs, about a third of an ounce, in his pocket during his arrest, according to local and international news reports. His arrest came three days after Ali Akhmedov, executive secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party, publicly urged authorities to silence Zakhidov. At a June 20, 2006, panel on media freedom, Akhmedov said: "No government official or member of parliament has avoided his slanders. Someone should put an end to it," the news Web site EurasiaNet reported.

Authorities at Prison No. 14 in Baku did not provide Zakhidov, who had a heart condition, with adequate medical care, according to the journalist's wife, Rena Zakhidov, and the Baku-based press freedom group Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS). An inmate reportedly attacked Zakhidov with scissors in September 2007. He was not moved from the facility despite that incident and ongoing harassment from prison officials and other inmates.

Zakhidov continued to write while in prison. On October 15, Azadlyg published his poem "Ilhamla Ireli" (Forward With Ilham), which had been smuggled from jail. The poem satirized that day's presidential election, in which President Ilham Aliyev ran against six virtual unknowns. Three days after the poem appeared in Azadlyg, prison authorities prematurely moved Zakhidov from a medical facility back to jail, shaved his head, and beat him severely, IRFS said in a press conference with Zakhidov's wife, Rena, who had visited the writer in jail on the eve of his 49th birthday on October 19.

Novruzali Mamedov, Talyshi Sado
IMPRISONED: February 3, 2007

Mamedov, editor of the now-defunct newspaper Talyshi Sado (Voice of the Talysh), was initially detained in Baku on charges of "resisting law enforcement" when police officers allegedly asked him to provide identification. The Yasamal District Court in Baku gave Mamedov 15 days in prison that same day. A day before he was due to be released, on February 17, the Ministry of National Security (MNB) charged him with treason under Article 274 of Azerbaijan's criminal code and imprisoned him at the MNB pretrial detention center in Baku. For the first 15 days of his detention, authorities held Mamedov incommunicado, with neither lawyers nor family members allowed to visit, according to local CPJ sources. Talyshi Sado stopped publishing after Mamedov's arrest.

Talyshi Sado was the monthly newspaper of Azerbaijan's ethnic Talysh minority, a group of about 100,000 people who live mainly in the southern part of the country, along the border with Iran. Published in the Talysh language, the paper had a circulation of around 1,000 and ran news and features on the history and culture of the Talysh minority, as well as poetry and prose from Talysh authors, according to Hilal Mamedov, chairman of the Committee to Protect the Rights of Novruzali Mamedov. (Hilal Mamedov is not related to the journalist.)

Novruzali Mamedov also headed the Institute of Linguistics of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences and presided over a Talysh cultural center, which also closed after his imprisonment, according to news reports and CPJ sources.

On June 24, Judge Shakir Alekserov of the Court for Grave Crimes in Baku, declared Mamedov guilty of high treason and gave him 10 years in prison. The proceedings, which began in March, were closed to the public on grounds that sensitive matters were to be discussed and the safety of prosecution witnesses allegedly needed to be ensured, said Hilal Mamedov, who testified at the trial. He told CPJ that the MNB had accused the editor of publishing Talyshi Sado with Iran's financial backing. The editor was accused of encouraging ethnic differences by promoting the Talysh minority's own culture, language, music, and self-determination.

In October, defense lawyer Ramiz Mamedov filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan, the local news Web site Day reported.

Eynulla Fatullayev, Realny Azerbaijan and Gündalik Azarbaycan
IMPRISONED: April 20, 2007

Authorities targeted Fatullayev, editor of the now-shuttered independent Russian-language weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the Azeri-language daily Gündalik Azarbaycan, with a series of politically motivated criminal cases. The persecution began shortly after Fatullayev published an in-depth report alleging an official cover-up in the investigation of the 2005 slaying of fellow Azerbaijani editor Elmar Huseynov.

In April, a Yasamal District Court judge found Fatullayev guilty of defaming Azerbaijanis in an Internet posting that the journalist said was falsely attributed to him. The posting, published on several Web sites, said Azerbaijanis bore some responsibility for the 1992 killings of residents of the restive Nagorno-Karabakh region, according to local press reports. Fatullayev, ordered to serve 30 months, was jailed immediately after the proceedings, according to the independent news agency Turan.

With Fatullayev jailed, authorities evicted Realny Azerbaijan and Gündalik Azarbaycan from their Baku offices, citing purported fire safety and building code violations. Both later stopped publishing.

More charges against Fatullayev followed. A judge in the Azerbaijani Court of Serious Crimes found Fatullayev guilty of terrorism, incitement to ethnic hatred, and tax evasion on October 30. The journalist was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison for this set of charges. With the sentences consolidated, he was ordered to serve a cumulative sentence of eight and a half years behind bars.

The terrorist and incitement charges stemmed from a Realny Azerbaijan commentary headlined "The Aliyevs go to war," which sharply criticized President Ilham Aliyev's foreign policy regarding Iran. The tax evasion charge alleged that Fatullayev had concealed income from the two publications.

Realny Azerbaijan was a successor to the opposition weekly Monitor, which closed after the March 2005 assassination of Huseynov. Like its predecessor, Realny Azerbaijan was known for its critical reporting.

The Supreme Court denied Fatullayev's appeal in June, ending domestic legal avenues. Fatullayev appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, which began reviewing the case in September 2008, his lawyer, Isakhan Ashurov, told CPJ.

Genimet Zakhidov, Azadlyg
IMPRISONED: November 10, 2007

A judge at the Yasamal District Court of Baku placed Zakhidov, editor of the pro-opposition daily Azadlyg, in pretrial detention in Baku, a day after the journalist's arrest. Police arrested Zakhidov after nine hours of interrogation and charged him with "hooliganism" and inflicting "minor bodily harm." The arrest stemmed from a staged street brawl.

On November 7, 2007, Zakhidov said, a young man and woman assailed him on a street in Baku. Zakhidov told reporters that the woman started screaming as if he had insulted her; a moment later, the man tried to attack him. With the help of passersby, Zakhidov said, he was able to fend them off. But the two later filed a complaint with police, and the journalist was summoned for questioning three days later.

Zakhidov is the brother of prominent reporter and satirist Sakit Zakhidov, who is also serving a jail term on a fabricated charge, CPJ research showed.

Genimet Zakhidov was targeted in two other instances of official harassment. In September 2007, Minister of Economic Development Geidar Babayev filed a defamation lawsuit over an Azadlyg article alleging misuse of ministry funds; the Yasamal District Court in Baku ordered Azadlyg to print a rebuttal. In October 2007, a state traffic police official filed a similar complaint over an article describing alleged corruption.

On March 7, 2008, a Baku district court sentenced Zakhidov to four years in jail, despite contradictory testimony from prosecution witnesses and the absence of any documentation of the bodily harm Zakhidov supposedly inflicted, the journalist's lawyer, Elchin Sadygov, told CPJ. Eyewitnesses for the defense were barred from testifying, he said. Zakhidov was given the maximum penalty allowed by law.

Ali Hasanov, Ideal
IMPRISONED: November 14, 2008

The Nasimi District Court in Baku convicted Ali Hasanov, editor-in-chief of the pro-governmental daily Ideal, on defamation charges and sentenced him to six months in prison, the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety reported. Hasanov was taken into custody immediately after the verdict was read, the group's director, Emin Huseynov, told CPJ.

The case stemmed from unbylined stories published in Ideal in August that detailed an alleged prostitution ring. A woman filed a complaint against Hasanov and deputy editor Nazim Guliyev the following month alleging that the story had defamed her. Guliyev was convicted in October but went into hiding

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