INSTITUTE FOR REPORTERS’ FREEDOM AND SAFETY STATEMENT

March 10th, 2011
The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety strongly condemns the criminal actions of the Azerbaijani policemen who kidnapped two IRFS employees. IRFS deems this an act of pressure against a human rights and media organization.

While driving through the city center in the IRFS car on March 7, 2011, Mehman Huseynov (photographer and video operator) and Abulfat Namazov (photographer and driver) noticed that they were being followed by 3 cars (a black Mitsubishi Pajero and a grey and red VAZ 2107s. When the car stopped at the traffic light, the plain clothed persons surrounded the IRFS car, and without identifying themselves, opened the doors and forced the employees out to their cars – separately. Without any explanation, they took the employees to the Criminal Search Deparment of Narimanov District Police Office. They were then taken to the police chief’s office and questioned. Huseynov was questioned about his Facebook account, and the video clips he had posted on Youtube. The police officers asked whether he was involved with the organisation of the planned youth protest on March 11. Abulfat Namazov was questioned about the number of IRFS employees, their salaries, where IRFS Chairman Emin Huseynov lives, his daily movements between home and office and so on. The questions made it clear that several IRFS employees, especially the IRFS Head and his family have been regularly followed. This was made clear by the accuracy of the policemen's knowledge. When the IRFS employees did not give correct answers to police questions they were told that the answer was wrong, and the police provided the correct answers. Huseynov was forced to give a written statement of explanation about his internet activities. Namazov’s interrogation was oral. Huseynov and Namazov were set free after being detained for 2 hours. The police also returned the car. When Namazov got back into the car, he saw that it had been searched. Unable to get an official receipt for their detention, the employees returned to IRFS office. It should be noted that the police had visited IRFS office 2 hours before the detention and asked questions about the participants at the event arranged by civil society representatives on the arrests of youth activists. On the evening of March 7, other IRFS employees were followed.
IRFS assesses the illegal actions of the police as pressure against its employees, and the organization as a whole.
IRFS believes that the repressive approach to the human rights defenders and journalists in Azerbaijan pose a very real danger.
IRFS calls on the international comminity, especially the UN, OSCE and CoE to put pressure on Azerbaijani government and demand it to end the aggressive behaviour towards human rights defenders and journalists.
IRFS allso calls on the accredited diplomatic missions of democratic countries in Azerbaijan to hold immediate consultations and jointly condemn the political repression by a government that is seeking to silence independent voices.
IRFS calls on the political leadership of Azerbaijan to put an end to illegal actions of law-enforcement agencies. IRFS also calls for immediate release of prisoner of conscience Eynulla Fatullayev, along with the youth activists arrested for their online activities: Jabbar Savalanli, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, Dayanat Babayev, Sakhavat Soltanli and Rashadat Akhundov