The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) strongly condemns the Appeals Court decision to uphold the pre-trial detention of Yeni Musavat newspaper columnist Tofig Yagublu and calls for the withdrawal of the trumped-up charged brought against him. Tofig Yagublu, the Yeni Musavat newspaper columnist, was sentenced to two months in pre-trial detention after being charged with ‘public order offence’ and ‘resisting representatives of the authorities’.
As such, on February 4th Yagublu was summoned to the Department for Investigation of Grave Crimes under the General Prosecutor’s Office for the second time, where he was accused of attempting to undermine the socio-political stability in Ismayilli region by calling on local people to resist the police and block the roads, during the January 24 protest in Ismayilli. Nasimi District Court of Baku sentenced Yagublu to two months of pretrial detention on charges of organizing actions violating the public order (Criminal Code/Article 233) and resisting representatives of the authorities or using violence against them (Criminal Code/Article 315). On February 8th, the Court of Appeals denied the journalist’s appeal against this decision.
The prosecution suspects Tofig Yagublu of organizing mass riot in İsmayilli, in his capacity of deputy chairman of Musavat Party which is in opposition to the authorities.
Although Yagublu is actually a deputy chairman of the opposition party, in his interviews he repeatedly mentioned that he went to Ismayilli as a correspondent of Yeni Musavat newspaper and was not engaged in any illegal activity there.
Yeni Musavat newspaper founder Rauf Arifoglu and Head of Musavat Party Executive Board Arif Hajili, both confirm that Yagublu was doing his journalism assignment in Ismayilli.
IRFS therefore considers that the grave charges brought against Yagublu are absurd. IRFS declares that the reason behind Yagublu’s arrest is to intimidate the independent media workers, who actively report on riots taking place in regions of Azerbaijan and whose number is steadily decreasing.
Azerbaijani government continues to severely curtail freedom of expression. Right now, nine journalists including Yagublu are behind bars in Azerbaijan.
IRFS urges the authorities to immediately release Tofig Yagublu and other journalists arrested for political motives.
IRFS also calls on the Council of Europe and other international organizations to take more aggressive stance on the Azerbaijan’s government crackdown on fundamental rights and freedoms.
Late on January 23rd more than one thousand people staged protest in the district of Ismayilli, after relatives of local officials insulted Ismayilli residents. The protesters set fire to several cars and the Chirag Hotel belonging to Vugar Alakbarov, nephew of Ismayilli mayor Nizami Alakbarov. Vugar Alakbarov is also the son of minister of labor and social protection Fuzuli Alakbarov. United forces of the police and interior troops managed to put down the protest on January 25. Chairman of Republican Alternative (REAL) Movement Ilgar Mammadov and journalist Tofig Yagublu, who went to Ismayilli for some hours to see what happened there, were eventually arrested in connection with the protest. Ilgar Mammadov is the director of Baku Political Studies School of the Council of Europe.
Instead of investigating the true reasons of the protest and punish those responsible, the law-enforcement agencies put the blame on the opposition.