Eynulla Fatullayev, editor of Gundelike Azerbaijan and the Russian language Realny Azerbaijan, widely known for his criticism of the Government, was sentenced in April 2007 to thirty months in prison on charges of ‘criminal libel’ and ‘insult’ under Article 147.2 of the Criminal Code and was immediately imprisoned.
Fatullayev was convicted for an article posted on the internet accusing the Azeri army of culpability in the deaths of Azeri citizens during an Armenian army siege of a city in Nagorno Karabakh in 1992. This article was attributed to him, but Fatullayev denied posting it, claiming that it had been manufactured as a way of silencing him. The same day as Fatullayev’s conviction, his Realni Azerbaijan colleague Uzeyir Jafarov was attacked by unknown assailants, sustaining serious injuries.
According to Human Rights Watch, Fatullayev was fined 10,000 Azeri mantas (about US$12,000) for the same offense two weeks prior to his conviction. Tatiana Chaladze, the head of the Azeri Center for Protection of Refugees and Displaced Persons, brought a civil claim against him, as well as instigating the more recent criminal libel and insult charges. Fatullayev had previously been handed down a two-year suspended sentence in a September 2006 libel case, for defamation and insult against the interior minister, Ramil Usubov, whom he accused of having links with Haji Mamedov, a former oficial on trial for his alleged involvement in the murder of journalist Elmar Huseynov.
On 22 May 2007, further charges of ‘terrorism’ and inciting ethnic hatred were levied against him under Article 214 of the Criminal Code, and on 30 October 2007 he was sentenced to eight and half years imprisonment. These charges are believed to be related to a commentary in Realni Azerbaijan published in early 2007 that focussed on Azeri foreign policy with Iran. The article was written by another reporter. The court also ruled that everything in Fatullayev’s two newspaper’s offices would be confiscated and a fine of 250,000 manat (US$58,000) be imposed.
Fatullayev has staged protests within prison against political imprisonment and poor prison conditions. In April 2008, he staged a hunger strike in which he was joined by other prisoners, and supporters outside. He ended the strike after twelve days, following a visit from the Azeri representative of the OSCE, and the OSCE Representative for Freedom of Mass Media, Miklos Haratzi. Despite this, two days later he was reportedly put in solitary confinement, where he was held for ten days. The authorities gave no reason for this punishment, although his lawyer believes it was because he continued to stage protests.
PEN is furthermore gravely concerned by the threats made against Fatullayev and his family, and we urge that these acts be condemned by the authorities and that measures be taken to safeguard them against attack.
On 24 April 2008, Fatullayev was awarded the Human Rights Watch’s Hellman/Hammett award for persevering with his work despite being subject to political persecution. This year, there were 34 award recipients from 19 countries, including fellow Azerbaijani editor Genimet Zakhidov and his brother, journalist Sakit Zakhidov. According to Human Rights Watch, recognition of the Azerbaijani journalists came amid the deteriorating media situation in the country, where for the past 18 months, the government has cracked down on independent and opposition media using serious criminal indictments, and moving away from more traditional defamation charges.
English PEN believes Fatullayev has been imprisoned solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression and considers his continued detention a clear breach of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. English PEN calls on the Azeri authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally
Please send appeals:
• Calling for the release of Eynullah Fatullayev and protesting the additional charges levied against him;
• Referring to the fact that the conviction and charges are in clear breach of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights;
• Calling for the provision of protection to Fatullayev and his family against attack;
• Expressing concern about the growing repression of the Azeri media in recent months.
President Ilham Aliyev
Office of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic
19 Istiqlaliyyat Street
Fax: 994 12 492 0625
Minister of Internal Affairs
Lt.-Gen. Ramil Usubov
Ministry of Internal Affairs
Husu Hajiyev Street 7, 370005 Baku, Azerbaijan
Fax: 994 12 492 45 90
It may be more effective to send the above appeals via the Azeri representative in London:
HE Mr Rafael Ibrahimov
Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan
4 Kensington Court
London W8 5DL
Fax: (020) 7937 1783
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/prisoners/eynullafatullayev/