Reporters Without Borders regrets that a judge in Garadag, a district of the capital, refused today to free newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev and seemed to scotch any hope that he might be released in the near future.
The decision came three days after Fatullayev called off a hunger strike in the hope that his request for release would be heard. He had received a visit from a prison system official, who told him that the president had been informed of his situation.
When Fatullayev’s lawyer reiterated his insistence at today’s hearing that his client be released, Judge Ismayil Halilov responded that he was not competent to take such a decision. He added that if a release were possible, it would take three months as the procedure was so complex.
Reporters Without Borders is astonished that a judge should declare himself incompetent to release a detainee under his jurisdiction.
7.06.2010 : Editor ends hunger strike after four days
Imprisoned newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev yesterday ended the hunger strike he began on 2 June to draw attention to his fate and to press the government to free him. The local media covered his protest during the weekend and reiterated calls for his release.
The authorities have shown no sign of responding to all the expressions of support for Fatullayev or to a European Court of Human Rights ruling that his detention is illegal,
Reporters Without Borders reiterates its support for Fatullayev and again calls on the authorities to free him without delay.
4.06.2010 : Imprisoned newspaper editor goes on hunger strike
Reporters Without Borders supports jailed newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev’s fight for freedom. Fatullayev began a hunger strike on 2 June to draw attention to his plight and he hopes his fellow journalists will join him in his campaign to be released. He is also urging the president’s office, which he thinks is unaware of his situation, to request information about his case.
The editor of the two leading opposition newspapers, the weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the daily Gundelik Azerbaijan, Fatullayev was arrested in 2007 and was convicted the following year on charges of “insulting the Azerbaijani people,” refusing to pay taxes and making “terrorist threats” in an article that was a political analysis.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled on 22 April that his conviction was illegal and called for his immediate release. The authorities have nonetheless continued to detain him and are now trying him on a trumped-up charge of possessing drugs.
The authorities claim that 220 mg of heroin were found in Fatullayev’s clothes during a search of his cell in Prison No. 12 on 29 December. As a result, he is being tried under article 234.1 of the criminal code, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Reporters Without Borders reminds the Azerbaijani authorities that the European Court’s rulings are binding and must be carried out if no appeal is to be presented, which seems to be the case. The press freedom organisation reiterates its call for Fatullayev’s release and the dismissal of the drugs charge.
Fatullayev is recognised by the international community as a political prisoner. Reporters Without Borders has been calling for his release since the time of his arrest in 2007 as it has always regarded his detention to be illegal and politically motivated.
While expressing its support for Fatullayev, Reporters Without Borders regrets that he has taken the desperate step of going on hunger strike, which is a form of violence against oneself. The press freedom organisation is very worried about his state of health, which could deteriorate rapidly in the conditions prevailing in prison.
The next hearing in his trial is due to take place on 9 June.
13.04.2010 : Provocation - Hearing paves way for jailed newspaper editor’s trial on trumped-up drug charge
Reporters Without Borders accuses the Azerbaijani judicial system of persecuting newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev with the aim of keeping him in prison. Already serving an eight-year jail sentence, Fatullayev is to be tried at the end of the month on a charge of possessing heroin. A pre-trial hearing was held in the Garadag district of Baku on 9 April.
The authorities claim that 220 mg of heroin were found in Fatullayev’s clothes during a search of his cell in Prison No. 12 on 29 December. As a result, he has been charged under article 234.1 of the criminal code, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Fatullayev denies consuming or possessing drugs.
Reporters Without Borders believes the allegation was trumped up solely in order to avoid having to release Fatullayev, and calls for light to be shed on the charge and its motivation. The press freedom organisation also calls for the immediate release of Fatullayev, who is now the only journalist detained in Azerbaijan.
The 9 April hearing gave Fatullayev and his lawyers a chance to present various requests regarding the trial, which is to take place on 26 April. Fatullayev wants Judge Halilov removed from the case. Halilov was the investigating judge who had him arrested in 2007 and, according to Fatullayev, it would violate his right to an impartial trial if Halilov were in charge of this case.
His lawyers asked for the trial to be filmed and for photos and audio recordings to be permitted during the hearings but, so far, the judge has given his permission for just one 10-minute recording.
Insisting on his innocence and rejecting all the allegations, Fatullayev claims that the results of blood tests that were carried out were falsified and is demanding new tests by an independent laboratory. The judge yielded in part to this demand by requesting an expert opinion from Huseyn Huseynov, a doctor suggested by Fatullayev’s lawyer.
Fatullayev also claimed in court that he was placed in solitary confinement and subjected to physical harassment after the search of his cell.
The editor of two newspapers, the weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the daily Gundelik Azerbaijan, Fatullayev was initially sentenced to two years in prison in the spring of 2007 on a charge of “insulting the Azerbaijani people.” He was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison in the autumn of the same year on charges of threatening terrorism and tax evasion.
Regarded by the international community as a political prisoner, Fatullayev has taken his case to the European Court of Human Rights, which is expected to rule that he was wrongly convicted. Fearing they would have to free Fatullayev if the European Court reaches such a conclusion, the Azerbaijani authorities seem to have concocted the drug charges as a way of keeping him in jail.