Journalists and Media Workers Behind Bars

December 5th, 2016

1. Abdul Abilov, a blogger critical of government policies, was sentenced to five and a half years in prison on 27 May 2014. He was arrested on 22 November 2013 and charged with illegal possession, storage, and manufacturing or sale of drugs, which carries a prison sentence of up to 12 years. Abilov was the administrator of the Facebook page “Stop Sycophants,” known for its harsh criticism of the authorities. The page was closed down following his arrest.
2. Afgan Sadigov, the founder and editor-in-chief of AzelTV news website operating in the southern region, was sentenced to 3-month pre-trial detention in 22 November 2016, after being charged under Article 127.2.3 (deliberate infliction of a minor harm to health in a publicly dangerous way or from hooligan motives) of the Criminal Code. According to the journalist’s wife, Afgan Sadigov was arrested for reporting on injustices taking place in Jalilabad, embezzlement of social benefits intended for the needy by the rich, and arbitrariness in the regional hospital.
3. Araz Quliyev, the editor of the religion-oriented news website www.xeber44.com, was sentenced to eight years in prison on 5 April 2013. He was arrested on 8 September 2012 on a charge of hooliganism based on accusation that he was attempting to prevent an international folklore festival in Masalli region, and that he caused bodily harm to others, including police officers.
4. Arshad Ibrahimov, a journalist working for Azadliq newspaper, was arrested on 18 June 2014. Ibrahimov was sentenced to 11 years in prison on 13 August 2014 by Ganja Grave Crimes Court on charges of extortion. On 17 June 2016, the Supreme Court revised Ganja Appeal Court’s decision and reduced Arshad Ibrahimov’s original sentence to five years.
5. Bayram Mammadov and Giyas Ibrahimov, members of opposition civic movement NIDA and final-year students of Azerbaijan Slavic University, were arrested on drug charges on 10 May 2016. They were involved in writing graffiti on a statue of former President Heydar Aliyev. Both youths have claimed that they have been arrested for exercising their right to freedom of expression. On 12 May 2016, Baku Court sentenced Bayram Mammadov and Giyas Ibrahimov to a 4-month pre-trial detention. Their detention term was further extended in September 2016. The youth activists have reported being subjected to torture whilst in detention. On 25 October 2016, Baku Grave Crimes Court sentenced Giyas Ibrahimov to 10 years in jail.
6. Faig Amirli, Azadliq newspaper’s distribution director, was arrested on 20 August 2016. Employees of the investigating authority searched his car and house, and allegedly found and seized Fetullah Gulen books from his car. According to his lawyer, wedding video cassettes were also seized during the search. Amirli is charged under Articles 283.1 (Actions aimed at the incitement of national, racial, social or religious hatred and enmity, humiliation of national dignity, as well as actions aimed at restricting the rights of citizens or establishment of the superiority of citizens on grounds of their nationality, race, social status or religion, if these acts are committed publicly or through the media) and 168.1 (Creating, managing or being part of a group, which – under the pretext of disseminating religious faiths and performing religious rites – carries out an activity that disrupts public order or harms the health of citizens or violates the rights of citizens irrespective of its form of infringement, as well as distracts citizens from performance of their duties established by law) of the Criminal Code.
7. Fikrat Faramazoglu, the editor-in-chief of the Journalistic Research Centre (jam.az) news website, was arrested on 30 June 2016. He is charged under Article 182 (extortion) of the Criminal Code. On 2 July 2016, Narimanov District Court ordered his pre-trial detention. On 21 November 2016, Sabail District Court considered the journalist’s complaint in which he claimed to have been tortured (a beating which left him with broken teeth) during his detention at Main Organised Crime Department. The court dismissed the journalist’s complaint.
8. Ikram Rahimov, the editor-in-chief of realliq.info online news portal, was sentenced to 1 year in jail on 25 November 2016, after being convicted under Article 147.2 (libel that involves accusing someone of a serious or especially serious crime) of the Criminal Code. According to the journalist’s lawyer, the lawsuit against the journalist stemmed from an article published on realliq.info about how the En Ujuz (The Cheapest) shopping centres evaded taxes (a fact confirmed by the relevant letters of the Ministry of Taxes) and were closed down by Sumgayit City Executive Power chief Zakir Farajov, but later restored their activity after giving bribe to Zakir Farajov.
9. Ilkin Rustemzadeh, a blogger and social network activist, is serving an eight-year prison sentence following a court verdict on 6 May 2014. He was detained on 17 May 2013 and initially charged with hooliganism. Afterwards, he was charged with organizing and attempting to participate in riots.
10. Nijat Aliyev, the editor-in-chief of azadxeber.az was convicted on 9 December 2013 and is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for drug possession, illegal distribution of religious literature, appealing for violent takeover and incitement, as well as discrimination. His sentence was later upheld by the Court of Appeal. On 7 April 2016, the Supreme Court dismissed the journalist’s cassation appeal and upheld Baku Appeal Court’s decision of 27 June 2014.
11. Rashad Ramazanov, a blogger who used his Facebook page to criticize the ruling regime on issues related to freedom and justice, was detained on 9 May 2013. The police reportedly found nine grams of heroin on the blogger, which Ramazanov unequivocally denied. On 7 August 2013, his case was referred to the Baku Court on Grave Crimes, and, on 13 November 2013, the blogger was handed a lengthy nine-year prison sentence.
12. Saday Shakarli, a well-known poet and the author of a novel titled “Wolf’s Heart” where the authorities is criticised, was arrested on 23 December 2015 and charged under Article 182.3.2 (extortion of a large amount of property) of the Criminal Code. He was accused of extorting 10,000 AZN by threatening to publish revelatory, discrediting and fictitious articles and to disseminate defamatory information about a senior official of the Ministry of Taxes on the mass media. Saday Shakarli was sentenced to 10 years in jail by Baku Grave Crimes Court’s judgment of 16 May 2016. On 3 August 2016, Baku Appeal Court reduced Shakarli’s sentence from 10 to 5 years, after his offence was reclassified from Article 182.3.2 (extortion of a large amount of property) to Article 182.2.4 (extortion of a significant amount of property) of the Criminal Code due to a recent re-adjustment of the threshold amounts of each Article.
13. Seymur Hazi, a reporter for Azadliq newspaper and the host of Azerbaijan Hour political TV programme, was arrested on 29 August 2014, after a fight with a man by name Maharram Hasanov. He was charged with hooliganism under Article 221.3 of the Criminal Code and was sentenced to five years in prison by Absheron Regional Court on 29 January 2015. On 15 April 2016, the Supreme Court denied Seymur Hazi’s cassation appeal and upheld the decision of Sumgayit Appeal Court.
14. Tofig Hasanli, a critical and satirical poet, was arrested on 13 October 2015 and charged under Article 234.4.3 (illegal manufacturing, production, acquisition, storage, carrying, transfer and selling of drugs, in a large amount) of the Criminal Code. On 22 August 2016, Lankaran Grave Crimes Court sentenced him to 6 years in prison. The poet has occasionally read his critical poems on the Azerbaijani Hour TV programme.