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Newspaper editor receives barrage of telephoned death threats

(IRFS/IFEX) - IRFS is extremely concerned about the recent death threats that have been made against "Gundalik Azerbayjan" editor Uzeir Jafarov. Jafarov told the IRFS that, on the afternoon of 28 January 2008, he received over 300 calls to his mobile phone in which a man repeatedly told him: "I am going to destroy you" and "I am going to haunt you." On 29 January, Jafarov received over 600 additional calls of the same nature, all from a hidden phone number.

The same day the death threats began, the Baku Appellate Court reviewed a complaint put forth by Jafarov against the Yasamal District Police Department, protesting the department's failure to investigate a 20 April 2007 incident in which Jafarov was physically attacked and sustained severe head trauma. The attack occurred outside of "Gundalik Azerbayjan" newspaper's editorial office on the day that "Realny Azerbayjan" and "Gundalik Azerbayjan" newspaper editor-in-chief Eynulla Fatullayev was imprisoned. The attack remains "unsolved," despite the fact that Jafarov identified one of his two attackers as policeman Nabi Rajebov.

IRFS notes that this is not the first case in which journalists in Azerbaijan have been threatened by anonymous callers. The Nakhchivan correspondent for "Yeni Musavat" newspaper, Hakim Eldostu Mehdiyev; "24 Saat" newspaper chief editor Fikret Faramezoglu; imprisoned editor Fatullayev; and IRFS co-founder and correspondent for Turan News, Sarvan Rizvanov, all received death threats from hidden telephone numbers in 2007. Complaints filed with law enforcement agencies regarding these incidents all went unsolved, and according to the information available to IRFS, not a single person has ever been held criminally responsible for threatening a media representative in Azerbaijan.

IRFS calls on Azerbaijan's law enforcement agencies to seriously investigate the threats made against Jafarov and to ensure Jafarov's safety. It is particularly important that an investigation into these threatening calls be carried out by a completely independent party that has no interest in the previous attack on Jafarov, or subsequent investigations and lawsuits related to that incident.

IRFS also believes that the mobile telephone service provider that Jafarov subscribes to should provide assistance in this case by revealing the identity of the owners of the telephone numbers from which the threatening calls were made.

IRFS also calls on international organizations to follow this situation closely, and to demand that Azerbaijan's law enforcement agencies conduct a thorough and complete investigation into the threats made against Jafarov. Based on past events, there is not doubt that the threat to Jafarov's life is real, and the need for timely and adequate preventive measures is urgent.

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