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“After eliminating almost all sources of news and information, Nakhchivan’s security services are carrying out intolerable human rights abuses with complete impunity,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The few independent journalists working there are under a great deal of pressure. The death of a citizen in detention one day after his arrest and the disappearance of four other people are test for the government of Azerbaijan, which signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE.
“If the central government in Baku wants to demonstrate its sovereignty over Nakhchivan and it respect for its international obligations, it must immediately ensure that the media are able to operate there and it must rein in the regional authorities, who are resorting to increasingly violent authoritarian methods,” the statement says.
Journalists ran into problems when they tried to investigate the death in detention of Turac Zeynalov, a resident of Arazin, a village in the district of Julfa. While interviewing Zeynalov’s relatives, they were accosted by members of the Ministry of National Security (MNS), who tried to seize their cameras and microphones.
Malahat Nasibova, a reporter for the independent news agency Turan, was insulted by an MNS official and accused of collaborating with “the nation’s enemies.” She was then summoned for questioning at MNS headquarters but decided not to go. Reporters Without Borders is concerned about her safety.
Zeynalov did not return after responding to an MNS summons on 24 August. His relatives went to the ministry’s headquarters the next day and found his body. It bore the marks of severe beating and torture, especially on the head and face. Officials admitted “slapping him once or twice to teach him a lesson” but an MNS statement said he died “as a result of a cancer.” The family has not received any medical certificate stating the cause of death and all their requests for information have met with silence from the authorities.
The MNS claimed that Zeynalov committed “high treason” as a spy for neighboring Iran but no evidence of this has been produced and Nakhchivan’s authorities have refused to make any other comment aside from cautioning against “rumors.”