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Prison authorities confiscate book manuscript written by imprisoned editor

(IRFS/IFEX) - Prison authorities have seized the 300-page manuscript of a book "Azadlig" newspaper editor-in-chief Ganimat Zahid was trying to write while in Bayil prison #1, where he remains a prisoner. The public relations coordinator of the Justice Ministry's Penitentiary Service, Mehman Sadigov, claims the confiscation is legal.

"I can't say anything about what or whom the book was written about. But if the leadership of the prison took it from him, they did it legally on the basis of internal discipline rules," Sadigov told the Media Forum website.

However, Zahid's defense lawyer, Osman Kazimov, told Media Forum that the confiscation of the book was illegal. "The book may be taken, in case it includes criminal evidence. But what has Ganimat written in it, or whom did he insult in the book? They cannot keep it; the manuscript must be returned. What can or cannot be given to the persons held prisoner is stipulated by law. Zahid's pen and paper are not in the list of banned possessions, and for this reason his writing cannot be confiscated."

Kazimov also pointed out that, by law, not even the letters to family and friends written by prisoners or detained persons who are under investigation can be read by prison authorities.

According to Zahid's wife, Ayende Mursaliyeva, the manuscript is 300 pages long and is not a diary. "Ganimat wrote a book about the socio-political life of Azerbaijan, and wanted to publish it when he is released," Mursaliyeva told Media Forum. "I took paper to him twice in Bayil. If it was against the internal rules of the prison to give him paper and pencil, then why did they allow these things to be brought to him in the first place?"

According to Mursaliyeva, Zahid already stated that he will appeal to the head prison official to return the manuscript "after the official appeal process has been defined. I have talked to the head of Bayil Prison personally. I told M. Aliyev, 'You made a promise to return the book.' He answered, 'Who is closer to me: Ganimat or the government?' He admitted that he doesn't want to have a headache because of a book written in Bayil and is careful about protecting his job."

Updates the Zahid case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/93749

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