Talyshi Sado
August 17, 2009, in Baku, Azerbaijan

Mamedov, 68, editor of a now-defunct minority newspaper Talyshi Sado, died in Baku prison hospital while serving a 10-year jail term on fabricated charges of treason and incitement to ethnic hatred. The next day, a Penitentiary Service spokesman told the Azeri Press Agency (APA) that the journalist appeared to have suffered a stroke. Penitentiary Service representatives claimed that Mamedov had refused a transfer to a civilian hospital for treatment.

The official statements were directly at odds with accounts from the journalist's lawyer and supporters.

Ramiz Mamedov (no relationship to the journalist), the editor's lawyer, said the journalist told him two days before his death that medical treatment had been inadequate and his health was deteriorating. The lawyer also told CPJ that prison authorities refused to release the journalist on humanitarian grounds despite calls from the Council of Europe's representative to Azerbaijan and the country's ombudsman. Mamedov suffered from hypertension, bronchitis, neuritis, and a prostate tumor, the lawyer said.

Emin Huseynov, director of the Baku-based Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety, told CPJ that prison authorities did not comply with a local court's order to provide Mamedov with medical treatment beginning in March. He said authorities refused to allow independent medical treatment offered by a European Union delegation that visited the journalist in prison in June.

Azerbaijani authorities took Mamedov into state custody in February 2007, initially on a trumped-up charge of resisting arrest, which was then changed to charges of state treason and incitement of ethnic hatred. A three-month-long, closed-door trial culminated in a 10-year jail sentence.

Authorities never disclosed their evidence against the journalist. News reports said the case was based on an allegation that he had received money from Iran to publish Talyshi Sado, a tiny, twice-weekly publication that served Azerbaijan's ethnic Talysh minority. The Talysh community spans northern Iran and southern Azerbaijan. The paper folded after Mamedov's arrest.

Beats Covered:Culture
Local or Foreign:Local
Type of Death:Dangerous Assignment
Suspected Source of Fire:Government Officials


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