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CHAIR OF IRFS ATTACKED BY POLICE

The chair of IFEX's Azerbaijan member the Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety (IRFS) was detained and beaten while in police custody - the second time in two days he faced off with police, reports IRFS.

Emin Huseynov was covering an event in Baku on 14 June, organised to mark the 80th birthday of revolutionary Che Guevara. Dozens of police raided the event and arrested 20 people, including Huseynov and two other members of IRFS, and brought them to a nearby police station.

At the station Huseynov protested against the photographing and fingerprinting of the detainees. He was isolated, interrogated, threatened with death and beaten repeatedly in the head, including with the butt of a gun. He was hospitalised after losing consciousness.

IRFS reports that he is awake but remains in the critical care unit with sustained head injuries. The other event goers were detained for seven hours.

"We are appalled by this brazen attack on our colleague Emin Huseynov," said the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). "We call on the highest authorities in Azerbaijan to investigate this incident and bring those responsible to justice."

CPJ contacted the police department where Huseynov was held and was told that "no beating took place. (Huseynov) went to the hospital by himself." When CPJ asked how Huseynov sustained a serious concussion when there was no beating, the police said, "There is no brain concussion. Huseynov is a slanderer."

Huseynov, who was able to speak from the hospital, says the police statement is "an attempt by police to cover up their unlawful action. Such behaviour is characteristic of the police."

Just two days earlier, Huseynov was picked up by state security officers in front of Azerbaijan's Presidential Administration building while filming an anti-government picket. He was released more than two hours later, only after officers confiscated his ID, deleted his video footage of the protest and questioned him about IRFS's activities and sources of funding.

In recent months, journalists have been the target of numerous attacks and court cases brought on by officials.

In a recent case, the authorities failed to conduct a thorough investigation into the brazen assaults against "Azadlig" reporter Agil Khalil, who in the space of three months earlier this year was beaten, stabbed and escaped a kidnapping attempt.

If anything, prosecutors have made a concerted effort to further endanger Khalil, says CPJ: they have falsified information, ignored evidence - saying that Khalil was never actually beaten - and smeared the reporter in state-sponsored media.

Visit these links:
- IRFS: http://www.irfs.az/content/view/892/28/
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/5f4866
- CPJ on Khalil: http://tinyurl.com/5tyqhu
- IFEX page on Azerbaijan: http://tinyurl.com/5scuo9
(17 June 2008)

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