Azerbaijani journalist detained with 13 others for social media posts

The founder of an independent website has disappeared in Azerbaijan after he was detained by authorities on 6 July, his wife and his lawyer told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The CPJ called for the immediate release of Afgan Sadygov, the chief editor of now-defunct independent news website Azel – he was detained while he was visiting his mother in Jalilabad.

He was tried on 7 July and sentenced to 30 days in jail for an administrative offence, but when his wife and lawyer went to visit him at the detention centre they were told he was not there.

Azerbaijani media reported that Sadygov was arrested along with 13 other people throughout the country in connection with social media posts about recent events in Azerbaijan, including an assassination attempt on the mayor of the city of Ganja.

In a press release, the Prosecutor General’s Office accused them of “supporting terrorism” and “disrupting the socio-political stability” in Azerbaijan, among other charges.

Sadygov’s lawyer told CPJ he was not present at the trial and only received access to the court documents on Wednesday.

The court ruled that the journalist should be held in the Baku detention centre for administrative offences, the lawyer said. But when he went to the detention centre on Wednesday with the journalist’s wife, they were told Sadygov was not there.

Muscat Aliyev

Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev in Baku

Sevinch Sadygova told CPJ she was concerned about her husband’s wellbeing because the detention centre for organised crime offenders – or “bandotdel”– was known for torturing inmates.

“Snatching a journalist from his mother’s home, rushing him through trial without legal representation, and hiding him from family and lawyer is not only a violation of his basic rights, but puts another stain on Azerbaijan’s reputation as a press offender,” said CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia research associate Gulnoza Said. ”

Sadygov’s arrest comes around six weeks after his release from prison last May. He had already been detained in November 2016 and sentenced to two and a half years in jail on assault charges that CPJ determined were in retaliation for his reporting for Azel on alleged corruption by local authorities.

Authorities in Azerbaijan have systematically silenced critical media through arresting and harassing journalists and blocking websites, CPJ has documented.

President Aliyev is on Reporters Without Borders list of press freedom predators.


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