IRFS statement on the arrest of Tolishi-Sado newspaper editor-in-chief Hilal Mammadov

The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) is concerned over the arrest of human rights defender and Tolishi-Sado (“Voice of Talysh”) newspaper editor-in-chief Hilal Mammadov.

IRFS believes that Hilal Mammadov has been slandered and arrested due to his social and political activities, and his plan to reopen Tolishi-Sado newspaper after its one year closure.

IRFS reports that on June 21st, Hilal Mammadov was assaulted and detained by plain-clothed persons near Neftchilar Hospital in Baku and taken to Nizami District Police Office. Police officers claim that they found 5.83 grams of heroin in his pocket; police also conducted a search of Mammadov’s house, where allegedly, they found 28.294 grams more.

On June 22nd, Nizami District Court sentenced Hilal Mammadov to 3 months of pre-trial detention. A criminal case has been launched against Mammadov under Article 234.4.3 of the Criminal Code (illegal manufacture, purchase, storage, transfer, transport or sale of drugs in a large quantity). Under this Article Mammadov could face confiscation of his property and imprisonment for up to 12 years.

IRFS notes that Mammadov and his apartment were searched without the presence of his lawyer.  Late on June 21st, Mammadov was provided with a lawyer, but his lawyer, Anar Gasimov, was not allowed to meet with him. On the same day Mammadov was questioned under pressure. Gasimov confirmed that there were bruises on the soles of Mammadov’s feet.

IRFS recalls that Hilal Mammadov is the chairman of the committee for the protection of the rights of former Tolishi-Sado newspaper editor-in-chief Novruzali Mammadov, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail under charges of high treason in 2007. He died in the hospital of the Penitentiary Service on August 17th 2009. Tolishi-Sado, which was founded by the Talysh Cultural Center and late Novruzali Mammadov, ceased publishing on May 19th 2011. But on June 9th Hilal Mammadov was appointed editor-in-chief, and assigned with the task of reopening the paper.

IRFS states that Khural newspaper editor-in-chief Avaz Zeynalli, Khural newspaper Aydin Janiyev, website editor-in-chief Ramin Bayramli, Khayal TV correspondents Vugar Gonagov and Zaur Guliyev, and Sahar TV correspondent Anar Bayramli are currently in custody under trumped-up charges in Azerbaijan. The government has also launched a trumped-up criminal case against IRFS correspondent Mehman Huseynov. The IRFS calls upon the Azerbaijani government to immediately release all the above-mentioned imprisoned journalists including Hilal Mammadov, to drop all criminal cases opened against journalists on trumped-up charges, and to demonstrate tolerance toward freedom of expression.

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