IRFS calls for immediate release of two Azerbaijani poets arrested in Iran

July 12th, 2012

The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety is deeply concerned over the arrest of the two Azerbaijani poets in the Islamic Republic of Iran and calls upon the Iranian government to immediately release the poets.

On May 2, 2012 Azerbaijani poets Farid Huseyn and Shahriyar Hajizade were detained after having travelled to Iran to attend a poetry festival. Their arrest had not been officially confirmed by Iranian authorities for two months, until on July 3rd Iranian Press TV broadcasted a videotape relating to Azerbaijani poets. According to the video, the poets are charged with espionage. It is alleged that they acted under the guidance of the Azerbaijani Ministry of National Security and tried to set up cooperation with local Azerbaijani dissidents of Iran.
 
IRFS states that the Azerbaijani poets were not allowed to meet with the Azerbaijani ambassador in Iran, and were deprived of their basic right to access lawyer which is guaranteed under both local and international legislation.
 
IRFS believes that the poets are innocent and they fell victim of the deteriorated diplomatic relations  between Iran and Azerbaijan; for the past year Iran-Azerbaijan relations have become very tense. Law enforcement agencies of Azerbaijan arrested different people suspected of cooperating with Iran, on various chages.  Iranian Sahar TV correspondents Anar Bayramli and Ramil Dadashov were arrested in February of 2012. Anar Bayramli was sentenced to 2 years in jail. Ramil Dadashov was released after being detained for a period of time. Ramin Bayramov, the editor-in-chief of Islamazeri.az online newspaper, and Nijat Aliyev, editor-in-chief of the azadxeber.org website, were also arrested on trumped-up charges.
             
IRFS considers that the reason behind the arrest and detention of these three media representatives is their professional affiliation with  Iranian and/or pro-Iranian media organizations.
 
IRFS emphasizes that all recent developments including arrest of Iranian journalists in Azerbaijan last February, the arrest of the Azerbaijani poets in Iran in May ahead of Eurovision 2012 Song Contest, the anti-Azerbaijan protests held in May in Iran and counter-protests held in front of the Iranian embassy in Azerbaijan show that the two countries take revenge on each other.
 
Another scandal emerged when Tolishi-Sado newspaper editor-in-chief and human rights defender Hilal Mammadov was arrested on the charges of drug posession and high treason (espionage for Iran). Mammadov was arrested on trumped-up drug charges on June 21st. Later on July 4th he faced new charges for high treason (espionage for Iran) and inciting ethnic discrimination. It happened a day after Iran had confirmed that Azerbaijani poets were charged with espionage.
 
It shows that the worsening of the relations between Iran and Azerbaijan led to the hunting for so-called Azerbaijani “media spies” in Iran and Iranian “media spies”in  Azerbaijan.
 
IRFS believes it is utterly unacceptable that journalists and writers have become the victims of the diplomatic tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran. IRFS strongly condemns any restrictive action against journalists, writers and media workers no matter of their nationality and/or location and once again calls upon two countries to respect the right of freedom of expression.
 
 
IRFS calls upon Azerbaijani and Iranian authorities to start negotiations on the release of the arrested journalists and writers; specifically IRFS calls on Iranian government to release Azerbaijani poets Farid Huseyn and Shahriyar Hajizade and the Azerbaijani government to release Anar Bayramli, Nijat Aliyev, Hilal Mammadov and Ramin Bayramov.