Rafiq Tagi

Rafiq Tagi and Samir Sadagatoglu

Also known as: Taghizad / Taghi
Profession: Journalist for the daily independent Azerbaijan newspaper Sanat
Date of arrest: November 2006
Details of arrest: Tagi was arrested shortly after the publication of his article ‘Europe and Us’ in Sanat in November 2006, along with the newspaper’s editor Samir Sadagatoglu. In the article Tagi suggested that Islam had hindered progress in the development of Muslim states such as Azerbaijan. The article was illustrated by the same cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad originally published in Denmark that caused outcry in the Muslim world. The article caused outrage and protests among Muslim conservative groups and a fatwa (religious decree) ordering his execution was issued by Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani, one of Iran’s most senior clergymen. Tagi and Sadagatoglu were both held in pre-trial detention for four months.
Sentence: On 4 May 2007, Tagi was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment by the Sabail District Court in Baku under article 283.1 of the Azeri Penal Code, for ‘inciting racial, national and religious hatred’. Samir Sadagatoglu received a sentence of four years’ imprisonment.
Expires: 4 May 2010
Trial details: Human rights organisations have criticised the trial claiming that it took place in a climate of tension and was not conducted in an impartial manner. It was reported that radical activists in the courtroom heckled and demanded that Tagi be sentenced to death at the final hearing. A further forty activists outside the building threatened and abused the defendants and journalists covering the trial. After the verdict was announced Tagi told the court: ‘The protection of the human and civil rights of the citizen is the most important duty of the government… It looks like the court has a different opinion. Article 18 of the constitution says that religion is separated from state and all the religions are equal under the law. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression has been trampled on here in this court. They are forcing me to turn away from my own beliefs. Dear judge, this is unconstitutional.’ On 3 July 2007, an appeal court in Baku upheld Tagi’s sentence. 
Professional Details: Rafiq Tagi is well known for controversial writing which often conflicts with the views of the general public in Azerbaijan. He has in the past, for example, made scathing comments against Azerbaijan’s leading poet Samed Vurgen.
Honorary Member: English Pen

Release: Rafiq Tagi was among five journalists pardonned by the Azerbaijani President on 28 December 2007. Tagi was subsequently released and told the Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety (IRFS) that he considered his period of imprisonment as a dream. The article for which he was imprisoned expressed, he insisted, “the philosophical position of the author. This is not a crime.”  Tagi’s colleague Samir Sadagatoglu was similarly pardonned.

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/writersinexile/rafiqtagi/

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