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Investigation into assaults on journalist closed without charges being laid

(IRFS/IFEX) - The criminal investigation into the alleged assaults against "Azadlig" newspaper journalist Agil Khalil has been closed without any charges being filed, according to a report by the Turan News Agency, citing information from the Chief Prosecutor's Office (CPO).

Dagbeyi Allahverdiyev and Akif Chovdarov, high-ranking officers of Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry, told investigators that a person they did not know took their photographs as they were passing through the Zeytun Baglari (Olive Gardens) on 22 February 2008 at approximately 5:00 p.m. (local time). "Because of the nature of their work, they didn't want their pictures taken and tried to get the camera from Agil, whose name they came to know later. Then he stumbled, fell on his back, and started screaming," according to a CPO report.

The CPO also reports that "no objective signs of any kind of injury" were found on Khalil's body during the forensic examination conducted on 18 March (that is, almost one month after the incident). Because the beating was not confirmed by the investigation materials, the criminal case is being closed without charges being pressed.

Also according to the CPO, the alleged 7 May murder and kidnapping attempts on Khalil, the first of which Khalil says took place in a subway station, were not proven by the investigation materials. A CPO press release states that Khalil was not in the subway station at the time of the alleged attack.

The investigation into the alleged police pressure exerted against Khalil - including physical mistreatment - and against his family has also been closed without charges being laid. The CPO asserts that the testimony of Khalil's family does not support his allegations about their having been mistreated.

Khalil informed IRFS that he finds this outcome painfully laughable. He considers the CPO's decisions to be "impudent" and believes the investigation was a "set up". According to him, "their falsification of the testimonies of my parents and my defense lawyer prove (the falsity of this process) once more. They unmask themselves."

According to Khalil's defense lawyer, Elchin Sadigov: "The information distributed by the Prosecutor's Office is totally erroneous - part of a black PR campaign being carried out to conceal the illegality of the investigation," he said. "They abused my name as well. They did everything they could to prevent the people who were accountable for the Olive Gardens incident to be held liable. This shows that there's no institution in Azerbaijan that dares to call these people to account."

"I will appeal to the court in a few days," the lawyer added.

Updates the Khalil case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/93684

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