INSTITUTE FOR REPORTERS’ FREEDOM AND SAFETY STATEMENT

February 23rd, 2009
The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety is extremely concerned about the health and well-being of our journalist-researcher Idrak Abbasov.

Abbasov has been hospitalized with heart problems since Friday, when he returned to Baku from Nakhchivan. In Nakhchivan, Abbasov reports that he was subjected to physical and psychological pressure in the National Security Ministry (NSM).
On February 18, Abbasov and IRFS colleague Rashad Aliyev traveled to Nakhchivan to investigate the human rights and press freedom situation. On the day that they arrived, they sent an official letter requesting a meeting with officials from Nakhchivan’s NSM. On 20 February at 11:45 a.m., they were instructed to come to the ministry at noon for the meeting. Upon arrival at the NSM, officials informed Abassov and Aliyev that they could not enter together, and allowed only Abbasov in.
According to Abbasov, upon entering the building, his hands were restrained and he was blindfolded.  NSM employees took the journalist’s mobile telephone, and photo and video cameras. “Although I told them I have heart problems and had to take medicine several times, they behaved aggressively towards me,” said Abbasov. “One person who did not introduce himself said that I assisting IRFS in cooperating Armenia and other foreign countries, and exerted psychological pressure on me. He even threw the folder he was holding at me.”
Abbasov was finally released at 2:05 p.m. in the afternoon, but only after NSM employees deleted all the photos and video footage on his cameras and ordered him go to directly to the airport and depart Nakhchivan.
IRFS believes that actions against our employee Idrak Abbasov violated articles 3 (Prohibition of Torture), 5 (Right to Liberty and Security) and 10 (Freedom of Expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and Articles 133 (torture), 145 (illegal deprivation of freedom) and 163 (interference in the professional work of a journalist) of Azerbaijan’s Criminal Code.
In light of what is written above, IRFS calls on the government of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and the Republic of Azerbaijan to investigate this incident and bring to justice those responsible for subjecting Idrak Abbasov to inappropriate, inhumane and illegal treatment and interfering in the journalist’s professional work. IRFS calls for the local and international community to demand urgently needed democratic reform in the Autonomous enclave of Nakhchivan. Nakhchivan is often overlooked, but it has the worst human rights record in Azerbaijan. Nakhchivan should not be privy to double standards because it is not attached to the rest of Azerbaijan. Lastly, IRFS calls for Azerbaijan's government to put an end to it repression of freedom of expression and to fulfill its international obligations in the areas of freedom of expression and human rights