The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety deems yesterday’s ruling on Eynulla Fatullayev’s case by the Azerbaijani Supreme Court as a blow to the European judiciary system..

Before the Supreme Court considered the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling for Fatullayev’s immediate release, they first heard the Public Prosecutor’s illegal request for a two month extension of Fatullayev’s sentence for tax evasion. The ruling on the tax evasion case was passed in 2007, alongside other charges: threatening terror and the incitement of religious and national hatred. The sentence for tax evasion was set at two months, which, added to these other charges equals a final sentence of eight and a half years. The plenary meeting reviewed this request and sentenced the journalist to two years and two months imprisonment under the charge of tax evasion. The plenary meeting considers this term already served, because the journalist has been in prison more than 3 years. He remains in prison because of the drug possession charges of July 2009.

The plenary meeting upheld the ECHR ruling that the charges of threatening terror and inciting hatred were false. However, Fatullayev has not been released, because of the Appeals Court’s November 5th 2010 decision to sentence him to pre-trial detention for drug possession. IRFS believes that the authorities deliberately planted drugs in the journalist’s clothing (on December 25th, 2009) in anticipation of the ECHR’s ruling for his release. Fatullayev was sentenced to two and a half years in order to ensure his continued detention, despite the ECHR’s ruling on April 22nd, 2010 for his immediate release and for the dismissal of the terror and hatred charges.

Despite the calls of the international community for Fatullayev’s immediate release, the Azerbaijani authorities took an unprecedented step. For the first time in the history of ECHR, their ruling was ignored. This move has disrupted the entire judicial system of ECHR, along with the very essence of the European Convention on Human Rights, into stalemate. The behavior of the Azerbaijani government sets a dangerous and troubling precedent to other Council of Europe countries. It is possible for ruling regimes to keep dissidents behind bars, by repeatedly bringing new charges, despite (or even because of) the ECHR’s full acquittal based on the earliest fabricated charges.

IRFS believes that this obvious contempt for both European and local law demonstrates once again that Azerbaijan is crippled by an authoritarian government that continues to defy the rule of law and violate human rights.

IRFS calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to stop these human rights violations. IRFS also calls on the authorities to immediately release journalist Eynulla Fatullayev and youth bloggers Emin Abdullayev and Adnan Hajizade.

IRFS calls on the ECHR to fully investigate and evaluate yesterday’s legal proceedings. IRFS believes that it is high time to make the relevant legal amendments here in Azerbaijan, as well as to ECHR legislation. This needs to happen to prevent authorities from bringing new charges against dissidents in order to prolong their imprisonment.  

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