The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety condemns Azerbaijan’s government for the mysterious death of imprisoned Editor-in-Chief of “Tolishi Sado” Newspaper Novruzali Mammadov, and declares that the political responsibility for this death rests on Azerbaijan’s government. 

68-year-old N.Mammadov, who was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for unproven treachery charges, passed away yesterday, 17 August, in the Justice Ministry’s Penitentiary Services Central Hospital. Although the Penitentiary Services reported that N. Mammadov died as a result of severe brain thrombosis, it is written in the local press that N. Mammadov died due to heart failure.

On 18 January of this year N. Mammadov was put in “solitary confinement” in Prison #15 and as a result he developed serious health problems. Then he appealed to court, and in March of this year, the court fulfilled his claim and issued a decision to immediately transfer him to a medical facility. However, the prison leadership ignored the court’s decision and N. Mammadov’s health deteriorated. On 28 July N.Mammadov health became critical and he was transferred to the Justice Ministry’s Penitentiary Services Central Hospital. Considering the seriousness of Mammadov’s health problems, local and organizations (Council of Europe Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Azerbaijan Veronica Kotek, Ombudsman Elmira Suleymanova and so on) called for the editor-in-chief to be placed in a civilian hospital, and to invite a medical consultant expert via the Council of Europe to see him. However, this was not permitted.

IRFS believes that the author of “Tolishi-Urusi-Tirkeyi Luget” (Talysh-Russian-Turkish dictionary) N. Mammadov’s arrest was politically motivated and that government imprisoned Mammadov to restrict his freedom of speech.

IRFS declares that Mammadov’s death indicates that the lives of imprisoned journalists and bloggers are in danger and evaluates this as a terroristic act of the government against freedom of speech.

IRFS declares that the responsibility for the death of N.Mammadov rests on the government and calls on Azerbaijan’s government to investigate this death and release all of Azerbaijan’s imprisoned journalists and all other prisoners arrested for freedom of speech.

IRFS notes that this is not first time that people arrested for the expression of their political views have passed away in prison. Faina Kungurova, a female political activist who was arrested on political reasons, died in the Justice Ministry’s hospital on 19 October 2007.

IRFS considers that these kinds of cases are the result of the Azeri government’s indifference, disrespectful and inhumane approach towards the life of people and journalists who have different political views. As a result of this attitude, the murder of Monitor” Journal Editor-in-Chief Elmar Huseynov has not been solved yet, and the government is not concerned to find the executors and the people behind this murder.  

IRFS expresses its condolences in connection with N. Mammadov’s death, and calls on international organizations to assist to investigate the mysterious death of N.Mammadov and to impose sanctions against officials that hold political responsibility for this death. 

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