Press freedom groups submit petition to release Avaz Zeynalli

Press freedom watchdog, the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) has completed its petition campaign aiming at release and rehabilitation of opposition editor Avaz Zeynalli.The petition is signed by 236 public and political figures and human rights defenders and addressed to President Aliyev.  ‘We call on President to use his power to ensure that trumped-up charges against Zeynalli are dropped and he is released from prison” said IRFS Chair Emin Huseynov.

According to IRFS Chair, the judicial investigation into Zeynalli’s case has proved that the charges brought against the journalist are unfounded and politically motivated.

Turan Information Agency director Mehman Aliyev is confident that Zeynalli was arrested for political reasons. Mehman Aliyev reminds that Khural newspaper chief editor was detained a few days after had written an article critical of President Aliyev. Zeynalli faced a number of criminal charges since then. İf the president demands from the head of his administration, Ramiz Mehdiyev, not to interfere with the activity of the trial, a fair decision to free Zeynalli would be adopted, believes the chief editor of website Afgan Mukhtarli.

A final verdict on the case of Avaz Zeynalli will be announced in Baku Grave Criems Court on March 12, at 10am.

Background: Avaz Zeynalli, was arrested on October 28, 2011 following a lawsuit brought by MP Gular Ahmadova on October 19, 2011. 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. He was later charged under article 306 (contempt of court) and article 213.1 (tax evasion). On February 13th the public prosecutor asked for 11 years in prison for Avaz Zeynalli.
A large number 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.

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