The ECHR found unlawful searches and seizures at the “Ganun” publishing house

Today, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) announced a decision in the case of Shahbaz Rustamhanli v. Azerbaijan. The applicant in this case was Shahbaz Rustamhanli, founder, director and owner of the Editorial Office of the “Ganun”  magazine, known as Shahbaz Khuduoglu. The complaint was filed against a sudden on-site tax audit at the “Ganun” publishing house.

The applicant complained about the searches and seizures in the building of the publishing house, seeing this as a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for personal and family life) The European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms and Article 1 (right of ownership) Protocol No. 1 of the same Convention. 

Within the country, the applicant was unable to obtain recognition of the violation of his rights and saw this as a violation of Article 6 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECHR found a violation of the applicant’s rights to respect for privacy and property rights.

According to the decision of the Strasbourg Court, the applicant will be paid 12 thousand euros for material damage and another 1,500 euros for reimbursement of court costs. The applicant was represented in the ECHR by lawyer Khalid Agaliev.

Shahbaz Khuduoglu, director of the “Ganun” publishing house, generally expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision. According to him, the tax audit, the criminal case against the publishing house, the seizure of documents and equipment led to the suspension of the company’s activities for several years.

A monetary sanction in the amount of 150 thousand manats was applied against the publishing house. Although “Ganun” subsequently managed to overturn this decision, however, 30 thousand euros that were on the company’s account were withdrawn. “Regardless of the amount of compensation awarded to us by the ECHR, we consider this decision to be recognition of our efforts to restore our rights and activities, despite hardships and difficulties,” Khuduoglu said.

The ECHR also announced a decision on the complaint of the NGO “Association of Lawyers of Azerbaijan” against the tax sanction. In this case, the Government of Azerbaijan and the applicant reached a settlement agreement. The authorities agreed to pay the applicant 4,000 euros. The applicant was represented in the ECHR by lawyer Khalid Bagirov.
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