4 months since Avaz Zeynalli’s arrest

February 24th, 2012
Today, IRFS hosted a presentation of the English-language translation of the Preventive Investigation Group’s report on the case of Xural newspaper editor-in-chief Avaz Zeynalli.

The Group will share the report with international organizations, mass media, and with countries participating in the Eurovision 2012 Song Contest.

 

The head of the Preventive Group, journalist Afghan Mukhtarli, said that the Group is continuing to monitor Zeynalli’s case, especially the actions of the ruling establishment and investigative bodies. He said that the property confiscated from Xural has been sold without notification of its owners and that a tax inspection has been launched into newspaper’s operation.

 

Zeynalli’s lawyer Elchin Sadigov noted that the Tax Audit Department opened a criminal case under charges of tax evasion. A 3,625 AZN fine has been imposed based on the Tax Audit Departments findings that 7,251 AZN in taxes were not paid.

    

This amount was reached via the following statistics: Since 2006, 226 editions of the newspaper at an average of  2,200 copies were sold for 40 cents per copy.. But in reality, the newspaper has never had such a high circulation. The tax inspectors did not consider that the newspaper was actually sold for 26 cents per copy. Sadigov noted that the defendant side will lodge a complaint with the court against the actions of the tax inspectors and require that the inspection protocol be cancelled.

 

Another lawyer working with Zeynalli, Masum Bayramov, noted that the attitude of the Penitentiary Service has changed following the publication of an assessment of how Zeynalli’s rights in prison were being violated. On February 22, Zeynalli’s statement was seized from his lawyer Elchin Sadigov by prison officials. Sadigov said that they are going to appeal against the actions of the Penitentiary Service.

 

The newspaper staff and other journalists are taking further steps for the defense of Zeynalli’s rights. They are also hoping to meet with the Ombudsman, as well as with Zeynalli himself.

 

“There is in fact an information vacuum around Avaz Zeynalli. I propose to send a letter to the Penitentiary Service asking for a meeting with Gular Ahmadov. Though Zeynalli’s complaint was based on the complaints of MP Gular Ahmadova, she has not agreed to participate in a face-to-face confrontation with Zeynalli. She has requested personal immunity as a parliamentarian, but she has no immunity before civil society,” Emin Huseynov said.

 

Xural newspaper editor-in-chief Avaz Zeynalli was arrested in October 2011, charged with failure to implement a court decision and extortion. The latter accusation came from ruling party MP Gular Ahmadova. However, the investigation has been limited and there is no evidence that Zeynalli accepted a bribe. Nonetheless, the court extended his pre-trial detention for a further 3 months. Local and international human rights organizations believe that Zeynalli was arrested for his articles criticizing high-ranking officials.

 

IRFS chairman Emin Huseynov proposed that media organizations, editor-in-chiefs, as well as other media representatives prepare an appeal to send to the prison leadership where Zeynalli is held.