Today, on December 16, jailed editor-in-chief of Khural newspaper Avaz Zeynalli turns 44. The journalist, who was convicted on trumped-up charges, celebrates his third birthday in a row behinds bars.
Zeynalli was arrested based on the complaint filed by former MP Gular Ahmadova, who was recently sentenced to three years in prison. In a trial, in which multiple violations of due process were observed, the journalist was handed a 9-year jail sentence. But Gular Ahmadova, whose slanderous charges ended up with imprisonment of the journalist and who herself embezzled large sums of money abusing her power as an MP and involving in a “mandate deal,” got only 3 years. Experts believe the sentence given is inadequate to the offence of the former MP indicating more intolerance of the authorities towards a journalist than a politician.
It should be noted that the journalist was not proven guilty during the whole course of the trial and in a media statement Gular Ahmadova said that Zeynalli was not arrested because of her. However the bill of indictment mentions that Avaz Zeynalli was arrested following the complaint made by Ahmadova. In addition to Zeynalli’s imprisonment, the property of Khural newspaper and it seized to be published. For the time being, the newspaper operates only online (xural.com.)
Avaz Zeynalli has led Khural since 2002 and published articles which were critical of the authorities.
IRFS congratulates the journalist and wishes him a quick release.
At the same time, IRFS demands the Azerbaijani government to immediately and unconditionally release Avaz Zeynalli, who was jailed on trumped-up charges.
Background: Avaz Zeynalli was arrested on October 28, 2011 following a lawsuit brought by former MP Gular Ahmadova. The Anti-Corruption Office launched a criminal case against Zeynalli under article 311.3.3 (taking a large bribe) and article 311.3.4 (extortion) of the Criminal Code. Zeynalli was later charged under article 306 (contempt of court) and article 213.1 (tax evasion). On 13 February 2013 the public prosecutor requested 11 years imprisonment for Zeynalli. On 12 March 2013 the Baku Grave Crimes Court convicted and sentenced the journalist to nine years in prison. The decision was upheld by Baku Appeals Court on May 13.
A wide range of local and international human rights organizations strongly believe that the charges against Avaz Zeynalli are trumped-up and that he was arrested for his articles criticizing high-ranking state officials.