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The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) condemns yesterday’s decision by Baku Appeals Court to, keep veteran journalist Mehman Aliyev in detention. IRFS calls on the European Union, the Council of Europe, the United States and Canada to impose sanctions on the Azerbaijani authorities, who have crossed all possible limits of disrespect for fundamental human rights.
One of the most famous Azerbaijani journalists and head of the oldest and in fact the last independent Azerbaijani media, Mehman Aliyev is accused of tax evasion, abuse of power and also engaging in illegal business activities, and is being held in a pre-trial detention center until November 7, 2017.
IRFS regretfully states that the leaders of nearly all the most independent media outlets and NGOs have fallen victim to the repressive policy of the authorities by being prosecuted with similar absurd accusations since the end of 2013 to the present day. Having released such well-known human rights defenders and journalists jailed on similar charges as Leyla Yunus, Anar Mammadli, Rasul Jafarov, Intigam Aliyev and Khadija Ismayilova, the authorities arrest other well-known critics on analogical charges to keep the society under constant fear.
“The prosecution of Mehman Aliyev is not only the arrest of an independent journalist and deliberate elimination of Turan news agency but also, in fact, the beginning of a new era of ubiquitous informational opacity that will adversely affect all Azerbaijani people,” said IRFS CEO Emin Huseynov. “The corrupt authoritarian regime will continue to eliminate its critics even more harshly as long as it feels impunity for its criminal actions. In this critical situation, the repression of the authorities can be stopped only by serious political and economic sanctions by the West,” Huseynov summed up.
IRFS welcomes the recent statements by the US, French, German British and Norway governments condemning the arrest of Mehman Aliyev, and concurrently calls on the Council of Europe and the European Union to demonstrate a tougher and principled position in relation to the Azerbaijani authorities’ noncompliance with their obligations in the field of freedom of expression and other fundamental human rights. In particular, IRFS calls on the European Union and its members to stop negotiations with the Azerbaijani authorities concerning the New Strategic Partnership Treaty and to stop financial support to the authorities through the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. IRFS further calls on all political groups in the European Parliament to start working on a new resolution stipulating the initiation of severe sanctions against the Azerbaijani authorities and to completely stop cooperation with the Azerbaijani parliament in the framework of Euronest. This should include the cancellation of the upcoming inter-parliamentary meeting of Euronest members in Baku scheduled for the second half of September.
IRFS also calls on the Secretary General and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to launch the process of assessing Azerbaijan’s compliance with membership in the Council of Europe, under Article 8 of the Council of Europe’s Statute. Also for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to freeze the voting rights of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE as the first stage of sanctions.
At the same time, IRFS calls on the US legislators to resume the initiative to adopt the Azerbaijan Democracy Act, which stipulates the application of harsh political and economic sanctions against the ruling elite of Azerbaijan.
IRFS calls on the international community to fully stop the financial support of the Azerbaijani authorities through the World Bank and other international financial institutions until the authorities release the journalists, who fight corruption, from prison.
IRFS calls on the international community to completely cease any financial support provided to the corrupt authorities of Azerbaijan and direct the funds envisaged for the authorities to support the civil society which, over the past four years, has been brought to the brink of extinction by all possible forms of pressure from the authorities.
IRFS calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all unjustly arrested media representatives, including journalists Mehman Aliyev, Nijat Aliyev, Faig Amirli, Araz Guliyev, Seymur Hazi, Mehman Huseynov, Fikrat Ibishbayli, Arshad Ibrahimov, Elchin Ismayilli, Afgan Mukhtarli, Aziz Orujov, Afgan Sadigov, Javid Shiraliyev and Mahbub Zulfugarli, bloggers Rashad Ramazanov and Ilkin Rustemzade, writers Tofig Hasanov and Saday Shakarli, as well as graffiti activists Giyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov.