The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) calls on the Azerbaijani government to fulfill the European Court of Human Rights ruling for the immediate release of imprisoned journalist Eynulla Fatullayev.
On the 20th of April, 2007, Fatullayev was arrested in the court hall after a ruling by the Yasamal District Court on the lawsuit of Refugee/IDP Rights Defense Committee chairperson Tatyana Chaladze. After Fatullayev’s arrest, a criminal case was opened against him by the National Security Ministry Chief Investigative Office, regarding an article published in Realniy Azerbaijan newspaper. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the article caused foreign citizens and representatives of international organizations to be concerned for their safety. He was convicted under Articles 214.1 and 283.2.2 of the Criminal Code: threatening terror and incitement of ethnic/national, social or religious hatred abusing authority. He was sentenced to pre-trial detention. Fatullayev was then convicted under 213.2.2 (tax evasion). He was finally sentenced to 8.5 years in prison on the 30th of October, 2007 and fined 242,522 AZN by the Grave Crimes Court.
On the 22nd of April 2010, the ECHR issued a ruling for Fatullayev’s immediate release, and declared that the Azerbaijani government should pay him 27,822 EUR in compensation. The Azerbaijani government filed an appeal with the Grand Chamber of the ECHR. However, the Grand Chamber dismissed the appeal and ruled finally and absolutely for Fatullayev’s immediate release of Fatullayev. However, the Azerbaijani government has refused to release him.
We believe that Eynulla Fatullayev, charged with threatening terror, incitement of ethnic/national, social or religious hatred and sentenced to 8.5 years in jail in 2007, was actually imprisoned for his articles criticizing the Azerbaijani authorities. The EHCR judgment is a final endorsement of the journalist’s innocence.
On the 29th of December, 2009, 0.223 grams of heroin was reportedly found on Fatullayev in Prison #12 and on the 6th of July, 2010, Fatullayev was found guilty under article 234.1 (Illegal possession of narcotics in an amount exceeding the limit for personal consumption) of the Criminal Code. His sentence of two years and six months in prison began on the same date. Fatullayev and his lawyer believe that this incident was a set-up, organized so that the court could avoid complying with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the journalist's release. The appeal filed against the court decision is considered in the Court of Appeal. Considering that implementation of ECHR decision is obligatory in spite of the fabricated charge, detention of Fatullayev is illegal.
In a protest to the government’s ignoring his situation, as well as the defiance of the ECHR decision by the government, Fatullayev launched an open-ended hunger strike on 19 October demanding his immediate release.
In addition, along with Fatullayev, there are two bloggers in prison: Emin Abdullayev (Milli) and Adnan Hajizade. IRFS believes that the existence of imprisoned journalists on the eve of parliamentary elections due to be held on 7 November, which has a great importance for Azerbaijan, is an unusual situation and they all must be set free.