Reporters Without Borders condemns the 30-month jail sentence that local website editor Afgan Sadygov received on 12 January from a court in the southeastern town of Jalilabad on a clearly trumped-up charge of “assault and battery” against a woman.
Sadygov is the main editor of Azel.tv, a website that has often drawn attention to political mismanagement in Jalilabad and nearby regions, including the bad quality of the roads, poor infrastructure maintenance and the waste of public funds.
The court was told that the alleged assault took place at 10 a.m. on 9 August 2016, as Sadygov emerged from the office of the head of the local government, to which he had been summoned for a “discussion.”
Obvious inconsistencies in the prosecution case were ignored. The alleged victim said she was beaten unconscious and was taken while still unconscious to a hospital where she did not regain consciousness until several days later. But Sadygov’s defence lawyer proved to the court that she was not admitted to the hospital until 3:30 p.m. and that she signed her complaint against him the same day.
The four prosecution witnesses were all local administration employees, and two of them were the deputies of the head of the local administration. The court rejected the defence’s request to view surveillance camera video recordings.
“This trial was yet another crude violation of the right to due process and media freedom, which are guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
“The Azerbaijani justice system and government are obliged to respect the accords they have signed, on pain of sanctions. Afgan Sadygov must be freed and the baseless accusations brought against him must be dismissed on appeal.”
President Ilham Aliyev’s regime often uses trumped-up charges to silence outspoken journalists and bloggers. The victims include Faiq Amirov and Seymour Khazi. And when journalists continue to criticize the government after fleeing abroad, the same methods may be used against the relatives they left behind.
Azerbaijan is ranked 163rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.