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Newspaper editor convicted of slander, sentenced to corrective labour; television cameraman attacked, injured for filming electricity official

(IRFS/IFEX) - On 17 January 2008, the Narimanov District Court, presided over by Judge Sevinj Aliyeva, convicted Avaz Zeynalli, the editor-in-chief of "Khural" newspaper, of slander, sentencing him to 1.6 years of corrective labour. He must also pay 15 percent of his salary to the state during the period of his sentence.

The director of the Azerbaijan Publishing House and executive director of Azerbaijan's Presidential Works Department, Agabey Asgerov, filed the lawsuit against Zeynalli and the newspaper's correspondent Kamal Huseyn on 28 August 2007, in response to two articles published in August and July 2007. The articles alleged Asagarov had violated the law. Asagarov claims the articles were defamatory and libelous. The plaintiff was seeking an apology from and retraction by the newspaper, as well as the imposition of a 250,000 AZN (approx. US$296,000) fine.

In a separate case, on 16 January Janub TV camera operator Elchin Azizov's hand was seriously injured when he was attacked by Allahverdi Ismayilov, the chairman of the Masalli Electricity Distribution Network.

Azizov and his Janub TV colleagues Nurlan Nasirova and Elvin Rahimli were investigating complaints from villages in the Masalli region about poor electricity supply. When Ismayilov realized that Azizov was surreptitiously filming his response to their questions, he attacked the journalist with a chair.

Police are investigating the incident, as are the authorities responsible for the Masalli Electricity Distribution Network.

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