Azerbaijan: Novruzali Mamedov dies in prison


English PEN were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Novruzali Mamedov, editor of the Talysh minority language newspaper and head of the Talysh Cultural Centre, while serving a ten-year prison sentence in an Azeri prison. Mamedov died on 17 August 2009. According to the spokesperson of the Azerbaijani Penitentiary Service, he appears to have suffered a stoke, but other reports differ.


We share the widespread concerns that Mamedov may not have been given adequate medical attention, and that this may have contributed to his death. We are therefore calling on the authorities in Azerbaijan to ensure that an independent investigation is conducted into his death and for the findings to be made public.


The following is an extract of the press release issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on 18 August 2009.  (available here:



AZERBAIJAN: Jailed journalist dies in prison


New York, August 18, 2009-The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for an independent investigation into the death on Monday in a Baku prison hospital of Novruzali Mamedov, editor of the now-defunct minority newspaper Talyshi Sado, who had been in state custody since February 2007.


According to Azerbaijani Penitentiary Service spokesman Mekhman Sadygov, the journalist appears to have suffered a stroke. Results from an official autopsy have not yet been released, the Azeri Press Agency reported.


“We are deeply disturbed by reports that Novruzali Mamedov was not given adequate medical care in prison, which may have contributed to his death,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “We call on Azerbaijani authorities to make the results of the autopsy public immediately.”


Mamedov’s health severely deteriorated in the past few months, his lawyer, Ramiz Mamedov (no relationship to the journalist), told CPJ. He was admitted to a hospital in the Azerbaijani Penitentiary Service on July 28. Last Saturday, the editor told his lawyer that the medical treatment he was receiving was inadequate and his health was not improving. According to his lawyer, Mamedov, 68, suffered from a number of illnesses, including hypertension, bronchitis, neuritis, and a prostate tumor.


According to news reports, authorities refused to release Mamedov on humanitarian grounds and did not allow him to receive independent medical treatment. Earlier this month, the Council of Europe’s representative to Azerbaijan, Veronika Kotek, and Azerbaijani Ombudsman Elmira Suleymanova urged Azeri authorities to transfer Mamedov to a civilian hospital, the Baku-based Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) reported.


Another spokesman for the Penitentiary Service, Mekhman Aliyev, said Mamedov was happy with the treatment he was receiving at the prison hospital and had refused a transfer to an outside medical facility, the independent news Web site Lenta reported. He did not clarify whether he had discussed a possible transfer with the journalist.


Aliyev’s statement contradicts testimony by Mamedov’s colleagues and supporters. According to Emin Huseynov, IRFS director, prison authorities refused to fulfill a local court’s ruling earlier this year that had ordered the Penitentiary Service to provide medical treatment to Mamedov starting in March. Huseynov said Azerbaijani authorities refused to allow independent medical treatment offered by a European Union delegation that visited Mamedov in prison in June. Mamedov’s brother told Huseynov that prison authorities returned half of the prescription medications that his family had tried to pass to him in prison.


Huseynov said he did not notice any bruises or other marks on Mamedov’s body at the funeral today that would suggest a violent death, but said the journalist had lost a lot of weight and was unrecognizable.


Mamedov had been in state custody since February 2007, initially on a trumped-up charge of resisting arrest, which was then changed to a treason charge. A three-month- long, closed-door trial culminated in a 10-year jail sentence. In June 2008, Judge Shakir Alekserov of the Court for Grave Crimes pronounced Mamedov guilty of treason. Authorities never made their evidence against Mamedov public. News reports said the case was based on an allegation that Mamedov had received money from Iran to publish Talyshi Sado.


The small, twice-weekly publication for Azerbaijan’s ethnic Talysh minority folded after his arrest.


Additional background

The Talysh minority, primarily Shia Muslim, is mainly located in southeastern Azerbaijan. In 1993, in the middle of political turmoil in the country, the minority claimed self-determination under the leadership of the Talysh National Movement. Their autonomy claim did not reach public support and was suppressed. It is believed that the movement remains active. For more on the Talysh see


To see the English PEN’s previous report on this case, please click here.


Recommended Action


Please send appeals:


– Expressing sadness at the death of editor Novruzali Mamedov
– Calling for an independent investigation into his death
– Calling for an end to the imprisonment and harassment of journalists in Azerbaijan when exercising their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.


Appeals to:


President Ilham Aliyev
Office of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic
19 Istiqlaliyyat Street
Baku AZ1066
Fax: 00 994 12 492 0625
Minister of Internal Affairs
Lt.-Gen. Ramil Usubov
Ministry of Internal Affairs
Husu Hajiyev Street 7
370005 Baku
Fax:  994 12 492 45 90


It may be more effective, however, to send the above appeals via the Azerbaijani representative in London:


H.E. Mr Fakhraddin Gurbanov
4 Kensington Court
W8 5DL

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