The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) condemns the two year sentence given to Anar Bayramli, an Azerbaijani citizen and correspondent of Iranian Sahar TV in Baku.
Anar Bayramli was arrested on February 17th by 5 police officers, who gave no reason for the arrest, and was taken to Binagady Police Office #4. Later his family members contacted the police and were told that the police had found 0.0387 grams of heroin in his pocket. He was charged under Article 234.1 of the Criminal Code (illegal manufacturing, purchase, possession, transportation, transfer or selling of narcotics, and psychotropic substances). He was sentenced to 2 months of pre-trial detention and was not provided with a lawyer until three days after his arrest.
IRFS believes that Bayramli is the victim of the recent deterioration in Azerbaijani-Iranian relations. Sahar TV broadcasts in Azerbaijani and covers political and social problems in Azerbaijan. It is frequently critical of the government. The Azerbaijani government suspects Sahar TV of fomenting unrest, on multiple occasions has put pressure on the broadcaster and journalists.
IRFS deems it unacceptable to arrest a journalist on trumped-up charges regardless of what political tension there may be.
Currently the following journalists are in custody on charges widely agreed to be trumped-up: Khural newspaper editor-in-chief Avaz Zeynalli, Khural correspondent Aydin Janiyev, www.islamazeri.com website editor-in-chief Ramin Bayramli, Khayal TV correspondents Vugar Gonagov and Zaur Guliyev, Transparency magazine editor-in-chief Ogtay Gulaliyev, and www.azadxeber.az website editor-in-chief Nijat Aliyev.
IRFS calls upon the Azerbaijani government to immediately release Anar Bayramli as well as all of the listed journalists, and to show tolerance towards freedom of expression.