Call to reinvestigate Azerbaijani editor’s murder after 16 years
On the 16th anniversary of Monitor newspaper editor Elmar Huseynov’s murder in Baku, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to reinvestigate the case because new evidence of mistakes and obstruction in the original investigation has just been published.
Well known for his in-depth investigative reporting and his scathing criticism of the government, Huseynov was shot seven times in the entrance of his apartment building in the Azerbaijani capital on 2 March 2005. He had often received death threats and had been convicted several times after publishing revelations about leading politicians or close relatives of Ilham Aliyev, the country’s president since 2003.
On the anniversary of his death, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) has published a report with new evidence of various forms of obstruction and errors by the police and judicial apparatus during their investigation into his murder.
Several pieces of evidence was tampered with before the police arrived, and the police tasked with gathering crime scene evidence did not wear gloves. Teimuraz Alyev, one of the suspects named by the Azerbaijani investigators, who was supposed to be prosecuted, lives openly in neighbouring Georgia where, according to public records, he bought apartments in the capital, Tbilisi, in May and June 2008.
A second suspect is also reportedly living in Georgia while a third was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison in July 2006 on a charge of providing telephones to his accomplices.
“In the light of the new information, we call for the Elmar Huseynov murder investigation to be reopened and for those responsible to be brought to trial,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “The new information highlights a recurring problem in investigations into attacks against journalists in Azerbaijan, where the culprits are rarely prosecuted. We condemn the climate of impunity, which the authorities encourage by their refusal to properly investigate murders of journalists.”
The Azerbaijani authorities persecute independent journalists and have no scruples about bringing trumped-up charges to silence media critics. Polad Aslanov, the editor of the Xeberman and Press Az news websites, is due to spend the next 16 years in prison after a court last month rejected his appeal against his conviction on a charge of high treason and spying for Iran.
Most critical media outlets in Azerbaijan have been silenced or have had to relocate abroad, the main independent websites are blocked, and at least three journalists are currently in prison. They include Araz Guliyev, who has been jailed since 2013, and Elchin Ismayilli, jailed since 2017.
Azerbaijan is ranked 168th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.