IRFS condemns detention of Mehman Huseynov and calls on local and international groups to take immediate action

June 14th, 2012
The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) resolutely condemns the unlawful detention of Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety video-photo journalist Mehman Huseynov, and urges the local and international community to take immediate action to prevent Mehman from being unjustly sentenced to a lengthy prison term.

Mehman, 23 years old and the brother of IRFS director Emin Huseynov, was summoned to the Sabayil District Police station and taken into police custody at approximately 9 p.m. this evening (Tuesday, June 12, 2012, Baku time) for 48 hours, after three hours of questioning. He is accused under Article 221.1 of Azerbaijan’s Criminal Code – hooliganism.

At this point there is no court decision on Mehman’s detention, however a court decision will be necessary to detain him past 48 hours and to place him in pre-trial detention. The charges against Mehman stem from a verbal disagreement that he had with police at an unsanctioned protest in front of the Baku Mayoral Office on May 21, 2012. Mehman was at the event carrying out his professional duties, when police used force against both protesters and journalists, including Mehman and other IRFS employees. Police broke the camera that Mehman was using at the event. If convicted, Mehman faces up to one year of imprisonment.

IRFS believes that the charges against Mehman are completely groundless, and that the real reason for his detention is his professional work. IRFS suspects that the order to detain Mehman has come from the highest echelons of Azerbaijan’s government, in retribution for the human rights work of both IRFS and Mehman, particularly within the framework of Eurovision.

Mehman is one of Azerbaijan’s best-known videographers and photographers. His video clips and photographs are widely disseminated throughout social media and often picked up by the local and international press. Mehman has collaborated with numerous international media outlets, particularly in relation to Eurovision, which was held two weeks ago in Azerbaijan. He was extremely active in the “Sing for Democracy” campaign.

Mehman was recently featured in a German mini-documentary on Eurovision. He was also one of the winners of the 2010 US State Dept. Democracy Photo Challenge. Mehman’s YouTube channel has nearly 2,000 subscribers and nearly 2.5 million views.

Mehman was previously detained by Interior Ministry officials on March 7th 2011. He was handcuffed and taken the Organized Crime Department, where employees interrogated him about his activities on social media networks and advised him to be less active.

IRFS calls for Mehman Huseynov’s immediate release and for the spurious charges against him to be dropped. In addition, IRFS calls on international organizations to support and echo this call.

Urgent action is imperative, in order to prevent Mehman’s 48 hour pre-trial detention from turning into a lengthy prison sentence.