Xeber 44 | Imprisoned in Azerbaijan | September 08, 2012

Beats Covered:Culture, Human Rights, Politics
Local or Foreign:Local
Charge:Anti-state, Ethnic or religious insult, Retaliatory
Length of Sentence:5 years to <10 years
Reported Health Problems:Yes

Police arrested Guliyev, chief editor of the now-defunct religious news website Xeber 44, on September 8, 2012, while he was reporting on a protest against scantily clad dancers at a festival in the southeastern city of Masally, news reports said. On September 10, Azerbaijani authorities then charged the journalist with hooliganism, according to the regional news site Kavkazsky Uzel.

While he was in pretrial detention, authorities expanded Guliyev's charges to include "illegal possession, storage, and transportation of firearms," "participation in activities that disrupt public order," "inciting ethnic and religious hatred," "resisting authority," and "offensive action against the flag and emblem of Azerbaijan," according to media reports.

Guliyev's brother, Azer, told the independent regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel that the journalist's imprisonment could be related to his coverage of protests against an official ban on headscarves and veils in public schools. Xeber 44 covered news about religious life in Azerbaijan, and events across the Islamic world.

The journalist's lawyer, Fariz Namazli, told Kavkazsky Uzel that investigators said they found a grenade while searching Guliyev's home, but, in fact, the investigators had planted it there.

In April 2013, the Lankaran Court on Grave Crimes convicted Guliyev of all charges and sentenced him to eight years in prison.

Namazli told the local press freedom organization Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety that the charges against Guliyev were not substantiated in court, and witnesses' testimonies conflicted. The lawyer said authorities beat Guliyev after his arrest, and did not immediately grant the journalist access to a lawyer.

News reports said Guliyev filed an appeal, which regional courts then denied. In July 2014, Azerbaijan's Supreme Court upheld the journalist's sentence. In Azerbaijan, defendants cannot appeal a case once the Supreme Court has ruled.

Guliyev was initially placed in Prison No. 14, outside Baku, according to Kavkazsky Uzel.

In December 2014, inmates started a protest against the alleged torture and subsequent death of a fellow inmate, Elshad Babayev. Guliyev, also a protester, was placed in a solitary confinement and tortured, according to an August 2017 report on political prisoners held in Azerbaijan, which was compiled by a group of lawyers, human rights activists, and non-governmental organizations.

The report states that, in March 2015, the reporter was transferred to a Gobustan closed prison to serve the rest of his term.

In late 2017, Guliyev's lawyers told CPJ that the journalist had health problems, but they did not specify the ailments.

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