June 11th, 2008

“Reports that I am seeking asylum from the US Embassy to Azerbaijan are the latest provocation against me,” “Azadlig” Newspaper correspondent Agil Khalil (Khalilov) told the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, responding to a question about articles of this type circulating in government and pro-government newspapers.

Khalil said that he cannot rule out that these reports were released by the National Security Ministry (NSM). “I would have suspected the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic, but I think the Prosecutor’s Office is an organ which simply fulfills orders,” he said. “It is only the NSM’s interest to disseminate reports like this.” At the same time, Khalil did confirm that some time ago he was at the US Embassy to Azerbaijan. “This doesn’t mean that I went there to seek asylum,” he said. “The US Embassy has been keeping my case under consideration. The meeting was focused on this.”

A. Khalil has already attempted several times to go abroad. However, in all cases the journalist has been turned back, citing “unfinished business” with the Prosecutor’s Office.

“The reports that I am seeking asylum are probably one way to prevent me from getting a visa. But I want everybody know that I don’t have any intention to leave the country and I am still working for ‘Azadlig’,” said Khalil. 

Recall that on 22 February 2008 Agil Khalil was beaten in "Zeytun Baglari" (Olive Gardens) by two people from the National Security Ministry while he was reporting, on 13 March he was stabbed in the chest and in early May it was reported that someone tried to push him into the path of an oncoming subway car and then tried to kidnap him.