Azerbaijan’s Press Council sent an appeal to President Ilham Aliyev in connection with the imprisonment of “Tezadlar” Newspaper Chief Editor Asif Merzili. It was noted in the appeal that A. Merzili is responsible before the law like other citizens; however, the court could have issued a lighter punishment for the journalist. According to the appeal, forces wanting to damage the country’s international image could benefit from the arrest of the journalist. In addition, it is noted that it would have been more acceptable to consider Merzili’s case as a civil case, not a criminal case.
Today, President Ilham Aliyev expressed his opinion on the appeal of the Press Council. Presidential Administration Socio-political Department Head Ali Hasanov reported this to APA. I. Aliyev expressed regret about the imprisonment of A. Merzili, and noted that it would have been more effective if the sides came to an agreement legally amongst themselves, according to Hasanov. In addition, I. Aliyev said that he hoped this and other problems as well as misunderstandings and confrontations between citizens and Azerbaijani journalists would not lead to the imprisonment of journalists.
Yesterday, 7 April, Asif Merzili was sentenced to one year of imprisonment for by the Yasamal District Court committing slander and defamation, on the basis of a lawsuit put forth by Azerbaijan International University Director Elshad Abdullayev.