The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) strongly condemns the Appellate Court's decision to uphold the Yasamal District Court verdict against "Azadlig" newspaper Editor-in-chief Ganimat Zahid.
This verdict was adopted yesterday, and stemmed from an appeal against Yasamal Distrct Court Judge Subada Mammedova's 7 March decision to imprisoned Zahid for four years; 3.5 years under article 127.2.3 of Criminal Code (to cause minor health damage with the intention of hooliganism), and 6 months under article 221 (hooliganism).
IRFS believes that the Appellate Court decision was the fulfillment of a political order and thus violated the principles of justice. The verdict is a central part of the Azerbaijani government's campaign of repression against "Azadlig" Newspaper, which has been going on for the last three years. In addition to Zahid's arrest, "Azadlig" Newspaper was evicted from its editorial office in November 2006, and in June 2006 narcotics were implanted in the pocket of "Azadlig" Newspaper satiric/journalist Sakit Zahidov, resulting in a three-year prison sentence for the popular writer. In addition, in March 2006 "Azadlig" Newspaper correspondent Fikrat Huseynli was stabbed in the throat in a reported attempt to kill him. And just this year the newspaper's young journalist Agil Khalil was brutally beaten while trying to investigate the cutting down of trees in "Zeytun Baglari" (Olive Gardens), stabbed in the chest, targeted by a black PR campaign and forbidden from leaving the country.
IRFS calls on Azerbaijan's government to stop its vicious campaign against "Azadlig" newspaper, to immediately release Ganimat Zahid, as well as Azerbaijan's other wrongfully imprisoned journalists, and to fulfill its international obligations in the areas of human rights and press freedom. IRFS calls on the international community to call for Azerbaijan's government to release Zahid and Azerbaijan's other wrongfully imprisoned journalists.