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Journalist assaulted while investigating environmental destruction

(IRFS/IFEX) - IRFS is concerned about the beating and alleged attempt to kill "Azadlig" newspaper correspondent Agil Khalil.

On 22 February 2008, at 5:00 p.m. (local time), Khalil went to the Zeytun Baglari (Olive Gardens), located in Baku's Binagedi district, after receiving a tip that trees were being cut down and burned there. The journalist told IRFS that upon arriving at the scene, two men, aged 45-55, approached him, asked who he was and who gave him permission to take pictures there. When Khalil told them he was a journalist, they asked to see his press ID. They grabbed Khalil's press accreditation card and also tried to take his camera. The two attackers also tried to strangle him with the cord attached to his camera. When Khalil fell to the ground, the men kicked him. Khalil said his finger was broken and he also sustained other injuries in the attack.

Khalil said, "Their intention was to take the camera from me. This altercation lasted for almost 10 minutes. Sometime later I managed to tell them that I would give them the camera and they calmed down a little. I had hardly managed to get it out of their hands before I escaped and ran. They couldn't catch up with me."

Khalil told IRFS there were witnesses at the scene and the incident was recorded. The journalist reported the attack to the Press Council and Binegedi Police Department. Police investigator Elnur Aliyev is investigating the case.

IRFS employees visited the venue of the attack on 23 February. They took pictures and recorded the scene. Aliyev, who was also there, said, "We have photos of the people who were involved in this incident and I believe they'll be found."

IRFS calls on Azerbaijan's law enforcement agencies to investigate this violent attack on Khalil and to ensure the journalist's safety. IRFS also calls on international organizations to demand the conduct of a comprehensive investigation into this incident.

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