Desperate blogger could die in Azerbaijani jail

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is extremely concerned about Mehman Huseynov, a jailed Azerbaijani blogger who is in a critical condition because he has drunk no liquids and eaten no food for the past five days in protest against the new, trumped-up charges that have been brought against him.

RSF calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to drop the new charges and free this well-known blogger at once.

Huseynov’s health is worsening by the day as a result of the no-liquid hunger strike he began after being told of the new charges. He could have been freed in March 2019 but is now facing the possibility of an additional seven-year sentence for allegedly hitting a prison guard.

After he was placed in isolation on 26 December, his lawyers were not able to visit him until 28 December, when he was already very weak and unable to walk without assistance. His lawyers have learned that he was given an injection yesterday, but they have yet to find out anything about the nature of this injection.

“Mehman Huseynov is in danger of dying and we hold the Azerbaijani authorities responsible for his fate,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “We ask them to free this blogger as a matter of urgency and to drop the new charges against him. The international community must do everything in its power to achieve this.”

Jailed since March 2017 for allegedly “defaming” the policeman he said had tortured him while he was previously detained, Huseynov is well known as a blogger for criticizing the regime and denouncing high-level corruption.

He is also the president of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), a media defence NGO that has repeatedly been targeted by the authorities. It is now run from abroad by his brother, Emin Huseynov, a fellow-journalist who had to flee the country. When their mother died last August, Mehman Huseynov was not allowed to pay her a final visit.

Azerbaijan is ranked 163rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

For more information, read RSF’s previous press release: “No holiday respite for Azerbaijani journalists” (28.12.2018)

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Updated on 31.12.2018