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Appellate court upholds four-year prison sentence for editor in "politically ordered" decision, says IRFS

(IRFS/IFEX) - IRFS strongly condemns an appellate court's decision to uphold the Yasamal District Court verdict against "Azadlig" newspaper editor-in-chief Ganimat Zahid. This ruling was adopted on 13 May 2008, and stemmed from an appeal against Yasamal District Court Judge Subada Mammedova's 7 March decision to imprison Zahid for four years: for three-and-a-half years under article 127.2.3 of the Criminal Code ("causing minor damages through hooliganism") and for an additional six months under article 221 (for hooliganism).

IRFS believes that the appellate court's decision came in response to a political order, violating the principles of justice. The decision conforms to the Azerbaijani government's apparent campaign of repression against "Azadlig", which has been going on since 2005.

In addition to Zahid's arrest, "Azadlig" was evicted from its editorial office in November 2006, and in June 2006 narcotics were planted in the pocket of "Azadlig" journalist Sakit Zahidov, resulting in a three-year prison sentence for the popular writer. In addition, in March 2006 "Azadlig" correspondent Fikrat Huseynli was stabbed in the throat in an attempt to kill him. In 2008, the newspaper's young journalist Agil Khalil was brutally beaten while trying to investigate the cutting down of trees in Zeytun Baglari (Olive Gardens), stabbed in the chest, targeted by a black PR campaign and forbidden from leaving the country.

IRFS calls on Azerbaijan's government to halt its vicious campaign against "Azadlig", to immediately release Ganimat Zahid, as well as Azerbaijan's other wrongfully imprisoned journalists, and to fulfill its international obligations in the areas of human rights and press freedom. IRFS also calls on the international community to call for the Azerbaijani government to release Zahid and other wrongfully imprisoned journalists.

Updates the Ganimat Zahid case:

For further information on the Sakit Zahidov case, see:

For further information on the Huseynli case, see:

For further information on the Khalil case, see:

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