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Editor of critical newspaper brutally beaten after protesting conviction of colleague

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a CPJ press release:

AZERBAIJAN: Editor brutally beaten after colleague's trial

New York, April 24, 2007 - The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the brutal attack on Uzeyir Jafarov, an editor and reporter for the Azeri-language daily Gündalik Azarbaycan, in the capital, Baku. Two unidentified men beat Jafarov as he was leaving the newspaper's office Friday night, according to the journalist and international press reports. Earlier that day, Jafarov had testified in defense of his editor, Eynulla Fatullayev, who was convicted and imprisoned on criminal libel charges.

"We condemn this vicious assault on our colleague Uzeyir Jafarov, and call on Azerbaijani authorities to thoroughly investigate the incident and punish all responsible," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. "This is one more attack on Azerbaijan's independent journalism, which has been subjected to one severe blow after another in recent months."

Jafarov had testified as to the professionalism of Fatullayev, founder and editor of Gündalik Azarbaycan and the independent Russian-language weekly Realny Azerbaijan. A Baku court sentenced Fatullayev to two and half years in prison after finding him guilty of criminal libel - a verdict widely seen as politically motivated. Jafarov protested the court's decision and was removed from the courtroom, according to local press reports.

The assailants attacked Jafarov as he was walking to his parked car near midnight on Friday, the journalist told CPJ. He said the assailants hit him repeatedly with a metal object, mainly on the head. The attackers fled when Jafarov's colleagues heard his screams and ran to help, he said. Jafarov told CPJ that he recognized one of his attackers as someone who had attended Fatullayev's trial.

Jafarov sustained head wounds in the attack, according to local press reports. He was being treated today at the Musa Nagiyev Hospital in Baku.

Jafarov had worked for the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry until resigning in 2004 and later joined Gündalik Azarbaycan, where he covers military affairs. He said he does not believe the attack was related to specific articles but was motivated by the paper's overall critical coverage.

CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.cpj.org

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