Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 July 2014, 14:17 GMT

Annual Prison Census 2009: Azerbaijan

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 8 December 2009
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2009: Azerbaijan, 8 December 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b220ca428.html [accessed 23 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, 2009

Azerbaijan: 6

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

Authorities jailed Fatullayev, editor of the now-closed independent Russian-language weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the Azeri-language daily Gündalik Azarbaycan, after convicting him on a series of politically motivated criminal charges.

The persecution of Fatullayev began shortly after he published an article alleging an official cover-up in the 2005 slaying of journalist Elmar Huseynov, editor of the opposition weekly Monitor. Fatullayev was an investigative reporter for the Monitor, which closed after the murder.

Fatullayev launched Realny Azerbaijan as a successor to the Monitorand he set out to find Huseynov's killers. In March 2007, he produced an in-depth article that charged Azerbaijani authorities with ignoring evidence in the murder and obstructing the investigation. The piece, "Lead and Roses," alleged that Huseynov's murder was ordered by high-ranking officials in Baku and carried out by a criminal group.

Within a month, in April 2007, a Yasamal District Court judge convicted Fatullayev of defaming the entire Azerbaijani population in an Internet posting that 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 news reports. Fatullayev was sentenced to a 30-month term and jailed immediately, 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 followed. In October 2007, a judge in the Azerbaijani Court of Serious Crimes found Fatullayev guilty of terrorism, incitement to ethnic hatred, and tax evasion. Fatullayev's sentences were consolidated, and he was ordered to serve eight years and six months in prison in all. The terrorism 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 his two publications.

The Supreme Court denied Fatullayev's appeal in June 2008, 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. The case was pending in late year.

In November, CPJ honored Fatullayev with its International Press Freedom Award.

Genimet Zakhidov, Azadlyg
Imprisoned: November 10, 2007

On November 7, 2007, an unknown couple assailed Zakhidov, editor of the pro-opposition daily Azadlyg, on a Baku street. Zakhidov told local 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 passers-by, the journalist said, he was able to fend them off. But the couple later filed a complaint with police, claiming that the editor had assaulted them.

Authorities acted with remarkable speed: On November 10, 2007, a judge at the Yasamal District Court of Baku placed Zakhidov in pretrial detention after police had interrogated him for nine hours. He was charged with "hooliganism" and inflicting "minor bodily harm."

Zakhidov had long been at odds with authorities because of his work for one of Azerbaijan's most critical newspapers. He is also the brother of prominent satirist Sakit Zakhidov, who was also jailed at the time on politicized charges. Sakit Zakhidov was released in April 2009, having served all but two and a half months of a three-year prison term.

On March 7, 2008, a Baku district court sentenced Genimet Zakhidov to four years in jail, despite contradictory testimony from prosecution witnesses and the absence of any evidence of "bodily harm," 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.

In September 2009, the Azizbayov District Court in Baku rejected a defense bid for a lighter punishment, the independent news Web site Kavkazsky Uzel reported. The court's stated reason: Zakhidov had been reprimanded after he refused to join a volleyball game with inmates, the Baku-based Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety reported.

Emin Milli, freelance
Adnan Hajizade, freelance
Imprisoned: July 8, 2009

Baku police detained Milli, 30, publisher of the blog ANTV, and Hajizade, 26, a video blogger and coordinator of the Azerbaijani youth movement Ol! (Yes!), after the two reported that they had been attacked at a local restaurant.

Milli and Hajizade were debating politics with friends when two unknown men interrupted their conversation and started a brawl, they said. When the bloggers went to report the assault to local police, they were arrested for "hooliganism," a criminal charge that carries up to five years in jail. A second charge of "inflicting bodily harm" was added in August. On November 11, a Sabail District Court judge pronounced the bloggers guilty, sentencing Milli to two and a half years in jail and Hajizade to two years.

Shortly before their detention, Milli and Hajizade had posted video sketches that criticized Azerbaijani government policies. They interviewed local residents and posted their opinions online, sharing them through YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. Among the issues discussed on their blogs were education, corruption, and poor infrastructure in Azerbaijan, according to multiple news reports and CPJ sources.

Domestic and international rights groups condemned the arrests of Milli and Hajizade as staged by authorities in retaliation for the critical content of their blogs. According to multiple sources, a satirical video the bloggers produced and posted on YouTube in late June may have prompted their arrests. The video criticized the country's importation of donkeys, supposedly at high prices. The sketch depicted a fictional press conference at which Hajizade, wearing a donkey suit, talked to a group of Azerbaijani "journalists."

Sardar Alibeili, Nota
Faramaz Novruzoglu (Faramaz Allahverdiyev), Nota
Imprisoned: October 8, 2009

Editor-in-Chief Alibeili and reporter Novruzoglu were sentenced to three months in prison on charges of insulting the chairman of the pro-government organization Azadlyg Harakatchilari (Freedom Movement) in six Nota articles, according to local press reports and CPJ sources. The articles, published in February and March, accused the group and its chairman, Tahmasib Novruzov, of being government mouthpieces, according to CPJ sources.

In October, the Baku Court of Appeal upheld a trial court's guilty verdict. Alibeili and Novruzoglu, who is also known as Faramaz Allahverdiyev, were taken to prison immediately after the appellate verdict was read.

Novruzoglu and Alibeili had been targeted with criminal defamation complaints in the past. In January 2007, Novruzoglu was given a two-year prison term and Alibeili an 18-month corrective labor sentence on charges of defaming Interior Minister Ramil Usubov in a series of articles that discussed friction and alleged corruption in the ministry. Novruzoglu's health deteriorated in prison and, after a barrage of domestic and international protests, he was released on a presidential pardon in December 2007.

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