Reporters Without Borders is enormously relieved that Realny Azerbaijan editor Eynulla Fatullayev was finally released yesterday on a presidential pardon after four years in prison.
“We share the joy of Eynulla Fatullayev’s family and colleagues,” the press freedom organization said after confirming that he arrived at his home at around 6 p.m. yesterday.
“He had become the symbol of abuse of authority by a regime that used every kind of ploy to keep him in prison as long as possible. The pardon is just one more act by an all-powerful government. It will not compensate for the four years he spent in prison just for doing his job.”
Fatullayev described his release to the Reporters Without Borders Baku correspondent, who went to his house last night to celebrate with him.
“The prison director came to see me and told me to gather up my belongings,” he said. “At first I thought it was another provocation. But then I was asked to sign my release (...) and I was sent home.” Fatullayev thanked all the international bodies and NGOs that kept calling for his release. “The international pressure had a very big impact,” he told Reporters Without Borders by phone this morning.
“I am definitely going to resume working as journalist but I do not yet know if it will be in Azerbaijan or abroad,” he added. “I will first see whether the conditions exist for me to be able to work in my country, especially from the security point of view. If they do not, I will be forced to go into exile.”
This is a historic moment inasmuch as, to our knowledge, Azerbaijan no longer has any journalist from the “traditional” media behind bars. There has nonetheless been an increase in harassment of the media during the past two months are so. Journalists with opposition media, especially Azadlig, are constantly being hounded and several youth activists and bloggers are currently serving jail sentences.
17.03.2011 - Azerbaijan turns a deaf ear
Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by a deterioration in newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev’s prison conditions. Held since 2007, Fatullayev was transferred on 2 March to Baku Prison No. 1, where he has received serious threats from fellow inmates, his lawyer, Anar Gasimov, said at a news conference yesterday.
Confirming the information, leading journalist Shahveled Chobanoglu said some inmates were even ready to kill Fatullayev because of his past investigative reporting. The situation is so serious that he prefers to stay in solitary confinement, despite serious health problems. “He is under great stress and is coughing constantly,” Gasimov added.
Fatullayev is so desperate that he has written to President Ilham Aliyev asking him to intercede to get him released.
Reporters Without Borders joins the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan in welcoming the decision by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers on 10 March to urge Azerbaijan to respect a European Court of Human Rights ruling last April that Fatullayev was illegally detained and should be released.
A series of trumped up charges have been used to keep Fatullayev in prison since April 2007. The latest was possession of heroin in prison.
Joint Statement :