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Authorities refuse to relocate imprisoned journalist despite health risks

(IRFS/IFEX) - Imprisoned satirist and journalist Sakit Zahidov, of "Azadlig" newspaper, was transferred back to Prison No. 14 on 20 October 2007 from the Chief Medical Department of the Justice Ministry's Penitentiary System, Zahidov's wife, Rena, told IRFS. According to her, when she spoke with Zahidov, he vowed he would start a hunger strike immediately if he was transferred back to Prison No. 14.

IRFS also spoke to a person named Mammedov at Prison No. 14, who said he had no information about whether or not Zahidov had been returned to that facility. The prison's management was unavailable for comment.

Zahidov suffers from heart and joint problems, and had been receiving treatment in the Chief Medical Department for these ailments since the end of July. While he was receiving treatment, he and his family members sent an appeal to the Justice Ministry's Penitentiary System asking that he be transferred to a prison within Baku city. However, Zahidov did not receive a positive response to this appeal.

Prison No. 14 is located 70 kilometres outside of Baku, and his family cannot afford to visit him there. In addition, in Prison No. 14 healthy prisoners and prisoners with infectious diseases including HIV and tuberculosis are imprisoned together, heightening the risk of contagion.

Zahidov was arrested on 23 June 2006 on a bogus charge of drug possession. He is currently serving a three-year prison sentence.

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