Reporters Without Borders is relieved by yesterday's announcement that Farid Huseyn and Shahriyar Hajizade, two Azerbaijani journalists and poets who had been detained arbitrarily in Iran for the past four months on spying charges, have finally been released.
"We are delighted that Huseyn and Hajizade are finally free as their ordeal had dragged on too long," Reporters Without Borders said. "The outcome, which has more of the hallmarks of a Cold War prisoner swap than a sober judicial decision, emphasizes the absurdity of the charges brought against them.
"We reiterate our call for the immediate release of Anar Bayramli, a correspondent for several Iranian media who is detained in Azerbaijan, and Said Matinpour, a journalist with an Iranian Azeri-language newspaper who is detained in Iran. It is unacceptable that the Azerbaijani and Iranian government use journalists as bargaining chips."
Huseyn and Hajizade are currently in the Azerbaijani consulate in Tabriz, in northern Iran, and are expected to return to Baku in the course of the next two days. After they went missing in Tabriz on 2 May, while on their way back from a news conference in Tehran, the Iranian government took a month and a half to confirm that it had arrested them. They were subsequently charged with spying.
Employed by two Iranian government media, Fars News and Sahar TV, Bayramli was arrested in Baku on 17 February and was given a two-year jail sentence on the trumped-up charge of possessing drugs. His sentence was halved last month.
Matinpour, who worked for the Azeri-language weekly Yarpagh, was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of anti-government propaganda and "maintaining relations with foreigners" following his arrest on 11 July 2009.
22.05.2012 - Two Azerbaijani writers missing in Iran
Reporters Without Borders calls on the Iranian authorities to quickly explain what has happened to two young Azerbaijani poets and journalists, Farid Huseyn and Shahriyar Hajizade, who went missing on arriving in Tabriz, in northwestern Iran, on 2 May on their way home from a brief visit to the Iranian capital.
According to the editor of the Azerbaijani newspaper 525, Rashad Majid, they were “kidnapped by eight men in civilian dress when their bus arrived in the city”.
“We are worried,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The Iranian government must shed light on the situation of Huseyn and Hajizade. We demand to know who has been holding them for the past 20 days and why.
“Other journalists are already being held hostage in the diplomatic stand-off between Iran and Azerbaijan and doing the same with Huseyn and Hajizade is out of the question. The two countries must stop making the media pay for their mutual hostility. Such behaviour is unacceptable and incompatible with their international obligations.”
Azerbaijani foreign ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev said at a news conference on 16 May that the two poets were being held by the Iranian security forces. The Iranian authorities had so far failed to provide any information on their whereabouts but had promised to do so within a week, he said. Hajizade’s father said he had received no news of his son since 2 May.
Huseyn, 24, covers cultural, social and literary subjects for 525 and another Azerbaijani daily newspaper, Kaspiy. Hajizade, 22, writes much commented articles on the social networks about youth issues and the highly sensitive issue of Iran’s Azeri minority.
They went to Tehran at the invitation of Iranian writer Bahran Surgun for the presentation of an Iranian edition of Huseyn’s writings. They entered Iran on 29 April, attended the presentation in Tehran on 1 May, and were arrested on their way back the next day.
There is increasing tension between Iran and its neighbour over territorial disputes and geostrategic interests linked to the routing of major oil and gas pipelines. Tehran accuses Baku of manipulating northern Iran’s sizeable Azeri minority, while Baku has been cracking down on pro-Iranian religious sectors in Azerbaijan, accusing them of colluding Tehran.
Iran continues to hold the Azeri journalist Said Matinpour while Azerbaijan continues to hold Ramin Bayramov, the editor of the Islamazeri.az website, and Anar Bayramli, a correspondent for various Iranian media. Ramil Dadashov, a driver for Iran’s Sahar TV who was arrested at the same time as Bayramli, was released on 16 May.