INSTITUTE FOR REPORTERS’ FREEDOM AND SAFETY STATEMENT

June 23rd, 2008

The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety remains concerned about its chairman Emin Huseynov.

IRFS fears that for political reasons Huseynov was not diagnosed properly in the Centralized Emergency Medical Assistance Hospital by admitting physician Emrali and neuro-trauma physician Gabil, and is also alarmed by reports being spread by government officials and pro-government press that Huseynov “fell ,” “injured himself ” and “got into a fistfight ,” all of which are completely absurd. Such reports cast a shadow of doubt on the government’s intention to conduct an objective and thorough investigation into this incident.

A week ago, on Saturday June 14, Huseynov was subjected to police brutality, after he was detained during a police raid of an event being held at the “Alaturka” Café, dedicated to 80th birthday of Ernesto Che Guvera. Huseynov was monitoring the event as an official representative of IRFS, along with two other IRFS employees – Rasim Aliyev and Mirrahim Hasanov — and informed police of this when they arrived. Despite this, Huseynov, Aliyev, and Hasanov were detained, along with approximately 20 other participants of the event.

As the detainees were being loaded into a police vehicle, Huseynov says he was punched and kicked by police officers, including a blow to the base of his skull. Then at Nasimi District Police Station #22, when Huseynov expressed protest against the fingerprinting and photographing of every single detainee, he was separated from everyone else, and put into the office of the police station’s deputy chief, Azer Karimzadeh.  At least four people, a mixture of uniformed and civilian-clothed law enforcement officers, went into the room with Huseynov. In particular, one man with an athletic build, who was wearing civilian clothes and sunglasses, began to threaten Huseynov. The man took out a Makarov gun, slammed it on the table between the two of them, and made death threats against Huseynov, saying, “I’ll destroy you,” “I’ll arrest,” and “I’ll bury you.” Although it was initially reported, while Huseynov was still unconscious, that at this point Huseynov was struck with the gun on his upper vertebras, Huseynov, since regaining consciousness, has now clarified that after slamming the gun on the table with the tip facing Huseynov, the civilian-clothed man reached across the table and struck Huseynov’s upper vertebras forcefully with the palm of his hand and then wrapped his around Huseynov’s neck, as if to pull the IRFS chairman’s body closer to the gun. At that point Huseynov demanded that the man remove his hands and informed the police officer that he is a category II invalid (the result of being beaten up by Ministry of Interior riot troops, while covering the 2003 post-election protests as a journalist for Turan News Agency).  Moments later, Huseynov was able to get out of Karimzadeh’s office and the police station, but he then lost consciousness in front of the police station.

IRFS notes that to this day Huseynov remains in hospital. The nausea that Huseynov was initially experiencing has subsided, but he is still experiencing vision problems, ringing in his ears and dizziness. While one doctor that examined Huseynov when the IRFS chairman was being admitted to the hospital verbally diagnosed him as having a concussion, the report  of Huseynov’s admitting physician, Emrali, only contains references to “neurological reaction” (e.g. emotional distress). This disparity appears to be the continuation of the Azerbaijani official’s widespread practice of misrepresenting the injuries that journalists and dissidents suffer at the hands of the government. Such a situation also arose in April 2007, when “Gundalik Azerbayjan” Newspaper editor Uzeir Jafarov was beat over the head with a blunt metal object. Even though Jafarov had a gaping head wound, his medical record too claimed he was only suffering from “neurological reaction.” 

IRFS recalls that an incident frighteningly similar to the incident involving Emin Huseynov also occurred on 28 December 2004, when “Yeni Musavat” Newspaper correspondent Alim Kazimli went to the Narimanov District police station to obtain an ID card. According to Turan News Agency, Kazimli expressed protest against the bureaucracy and illegal actions he witnessed while trying to receive a personal identification card. Police were angered by this, and one officer brutally beat Kazimli over the head with a telephone. Kazimli lost consciousness, only to come to at Afendiyev Hospital #2. Physician’s diagnosed Kazimli with a cerebral hemorrhage which left the journalist partially paralyzed and unable to speak. Kazimli fell into a coma later as a result of his injuries and died on 19 June 2005. At that time, Ministry of Interior spokesman Elshan Zahidov claimed that Kazimli “felt bad” while he was at the police station, but was not struck by any police officer. Zahidov is now making the exact same claims about the incident involving Emin Huseynov . No one was ever brought to responsibility for Kazimli’s death.

First and foremost, IRFS calls for the government of Azerbaijan to provide Huseynov with high-quality, unprejudiced, free medical care, as is guaranteed to all citizens of Azerbaijan. IRFS also calls on Azerbaijan’s government and, in particular, the Ministry of Interior to conduct a thorough and objective investigation into the illegal actions by police that resulted in Huseynov’s injuries, to put an end to the slanderous comments being made about this incident by government officials and the pro-government press, and to punish those people responsible for violating the rights of both Huseynov and other participants of the event at “Alaturaka” Cafe. IRFS recalls that Azerbaijan has undertaken obligations before the Council of Europe to, among other things, ensure freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and protection from arbitrary arrest and torture.

IRFS calls on the international community to demand that Azerbaijan fulfill its obligations in the areas of human rights and freedom of the press, and, to compel Azerbaijan’s government to put an end to impunity for law enforcement officials who commit acts of violence against journalists and citizens of Azerbaijan.

[1] http://www.apa.az/news.php?id=99684 [2] http://www.azadliq.org/Article/2008/06/14/20080614162124773.html [3] http://www.irfs.az/content/view/923/28/lang,eng/ [4] http://www.azadliq.org/Article/2008/06/17/20080617143030887.html