The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) strongly condemns the torture and harrassment of Khayal TV editor-in-chief Zaur Guliyev and executive director Vugar Gonagov by law-enforcement agencies. Guliyev and Gonagov were arrested due to their alleged role in the March protests in Guba.
Lawyer Elchin Sadigov sent an appeal to President Ilham Aliyev, General Prosecutor Zakir Garalov, Human Rights Ombudsman Elmira Suleymanova and the heads of other relevant bodies requesting an investigation into the reports of torture. In the appeal, he demanded that measure be taken to investigate the inhumane treatment of his client, and that legal measures be taken against the persons who interfered with his work as a legal professional. Sadigov met with Zaur Guliyev on April 7, 2012. In his conversation with the lawyer, the journalist said that they had faced psychological harassment when they were taken to Guba Regional Prosecutor’s Office on March 13. The journalist, during his detention at Interior Ministry Anti-Organized Crime Department’s prison, was subjected to abuse, he said, and despite his health problems, he was not provided with medical aid, and encountered further physical harassment. His state-appointed lawyer not only failed to defend him, but seemed to side with the public prosecutors. Despite Sadigov’s appeal to relevant bodies requesting urgent medical treatment for Zaur Guliyev, it became clear at their 14 April 2012 meeting at Baku Investigative Prison that the journalist has not received any medical treatment. Following these appeals, Baku Investigative prison has stripped Sadigov of his right to meet with his clients Zaur Guliyeva and Vugar Gonagov. IRFS recalls that Gonagov’s rejection of his lawyer Elchin Sadigov in March raised suspicions of coercion. The aforementioned facts suggest that the rejection of the lawyer may have been linked with the allegations of mistreatment. The state-appointed lawyers have failed to act in the best interests of the defendant.
The April 25th statement released by the General Prosecutor’s Office claims that the news reports of police torture during the preliminary investigation are unfounded. The statement also says that the Prosecutor’s Office has not received any appeal in regard to torture or mistreatment. This statement, in the face of Sadigov’s documented appeals, is yet another instance of violation of due process by Azerbaijani law-enforcement agencies.
IRFS calls upon Azerbaijani law-enforcement agencies to investigate the allegations of torture, punish those responsible, revoke these trumped-up charges, and release them immediately.
IRFS also asks the human rights commissioner (Ombudsman) not to turn a blind eye to this issue and to investigate the case fully. The Ombudsman’s Office recently released a statement saying that a meeting was held with the imprisoned journalists and that they had voiced no complaints about their treatment. IRFS calls on the Ombudsman’s Office to meet with journalists once again and to investigate the issue comprehensively.
IRFS calls on the international organizations to monitor torture and harassment of journalists in Azerbaijan, and demand the Azerbaijani authorities to abide by the International Anti-Torture Convention, of which it is a signatory.