Polad Aslanov, who weighed only 44 kilos when he began the hunger strike, is complaining of kidney and stomach pains while his wife says he is not receiving any medical care. For no apparent reason, he was tested for Covid-19 (with no result so far) and his wife fears he could be transferred to a cell for “tuberculosis patients” where conditions are unsanitary and conducive to the transmission of diseases.
The editor of the Xeberman and Press-az news websites, Aslanov was arrested in June 2019 and was convicted on trumped-up charges of high treason in November 2020. He filed an appeal a few days after his conviction but had to wait until last week for a court to begin hearing his appeal – a delay for which there was no justification. He was expelled from the initial appeal hearing on 4 February for protesting against the illegal presence of four state security agents involved in bringing the original charges against him and he also objected to the judge’s decision to bar reporters from the hearing. This measure is usually only adopted in response to disorder in the courtroom.
“The authorities continue to persecute Polad Aslanov, who was already convicted in a completely arbitrary manner,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “We condemn this inhuman treatment that is putting a journalist’s life in danger and we call on the Azerbaijani authorities to provide him with medical care and to ensure that he gets a fair hearing when the court considers the substance of his appeal on 15 February.”
Aslanov, who is critical of the Azerbaijani authorities, was working on a story allegedly implicating members of the State Security Service (DTX) in extortion when he was arrested on 14 June 2019 for allegedly betraying his country by providing information to Iran.
Azerbaijan is ranked 168th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index. Most critical media outlets have been silenced or have had to relocate abroad, the main independent websites are blocked, and at least three journalists are currently in prison.