The Preventive Response Group, which operates under the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, unveiled its report on the arrest of Khural newspaper editor-in-chief Avaz Zeynalli today (January 11, 2012).
The head of the group, journalist Afghan Mukhtarli, said that a complete investigation has concluded that the arrest of Zeynalli is completely politically motivated.
“Because we believe that his arrest was directly linked with his profession, we worked to make a legal assessment of Zeynalli’s arrest and investigate his professional work. Khural newspaper faced several obstacles to prevent its publication including the persecution of employees by different persons. The investigators paid particular attention to the legal violations at the time of Zeynalli’s arrest. Specifically, he was not officially charged until 5 hours after his arrest and he was sentenced to 3 months of pre-trial detention. Then, circumventing legal proceedure, the editorial office of the newspaper and Zeynalli’s apartment were searched,” Mukhtarli noted.
According to Mukhtarli, in addition to MP Gular Ahmadova’s charge of bribery, two other citizens have brought similar charges. No meeting has yet been held between Ahmadova and Zeynalli. “Prior to his arrest, Zeynalli had reported that Ahmadova offered to bribe him and wanted to visit the office to record his voice. The court case regarding the lawsuit filed by Presidential Office head Ramiz Mehdiyev has also been decided,” said Mukhtarli. He also added that Zeynalli’s arrest had been planned.
Mukhtarli says that the goal of the arrest was to silence Khural newspaper. “Even after the arrest, the newspaper was prevented from publishing. The newspaper employees were also prevented from publishing ASI newspaper. The editor of ASI newspaper, Anar Mahmudoglu, and his family was also threatened. We investigated this issue with the investigative group of the Narimanov District Police Office. Our investigation group obtained strong evidence which we presented to the Police Office. We know the identity of the person who threatened Mahmudoglu, but in order not to impede the investigation, we will temporarily not reveal the names,” Mukhtarli said.
Turan Information Agency Director Mehman Aliyev added that the operation of the group is financed by the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation, and that similar groups will be operating in future on cases of illegal actions against journalists.