Balakan District Court Sentences Journalist Afgan Mukhtarli to 6 Years in Jail

January 12th, 2018

At a hearing chaired by Judge Hummat Salimov, the prosecutor made his closing speech. He asked the court to sentence the journalist to 8 years in prison.

In turn, the defence requested that Mukhtarli be acquitted.

The court invited the journalist to make his final speech.

Mukhtarli assessed his arrest as politically motivated and stressed that he had been arrested due to his journalistic investigations. “I wrote articles about the occupation of the Lake Goygol, misappropriation of funds in the Armed Forces and the Azerbaijani government’s investments in Georgia. I wrote that the money they are investing in Georgia has been stolen from the people of Azerbaijan. You killed Elmar Huseynov, you killed Rafig Tagi, you killed blogger Mehman Galandarli in the detention centre and covered it up, you killed Rasim Aliyev, but here came we, we write and will continue to write. You will not be able to silence us. You will sentence me to 7 years in jail at most. And this will not be enough to silence us. Our main goal is not to topple Ilham Aliyev, our supreme goal is to give people hope,” the journalist added.

The judge interrupted the journalist’s speech and went to the deliberation room.

Upon returning from the deliberation, the court announced the judgment that sentenced Afgan Mukhtarli to 6 years in prison.

Background: Journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was abducted in downtown Tbilisi on 29 May 2017 and secretly sent to Azerbaijan. According to the journalist, this was carried out by Georgia’s criminal police officers in collaboration with Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies.

The next day, a Baku court arrested Mukhtarli and charged him under three Articles of the Criminal Code: 315 (resistance to authority), 318.1 (crossing the state border illegally) and 206.1 (smuggling).

Mukhtarli has been recognised as a political prisoner by local and international human rights defenders. According to his colleagues, he was persecuted due to his critical articles about corruption in Azerbaijan.