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Poet Sakit Mirza Zakhidov assaulted in prison, deprived of full treatment for heart condition

(WiPC/IFEX) - The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN is seriously concerned for the well-being of dissident poet Sakit Mirza Zakhidov, following reports that he was taken out of a prison medical centre prematurely and was assaulted upon his return to Penitentiary #14 in Baku, where he is serving a three-year sentence. International PEN calls for these allegations to be fully and independently investigated. International PEN seeks assurances of Sakit Mirza Zakhidov's well-being and calls for his immediate and unconditional release if imprisoned in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Azerbaijan is a state party.

According to the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety's (IRFS) information, Sakit Mirza Zakhidov was receiving treatment for long standing heart disease at the Justice Ministry Penitentiary Services' Treatment Facility until 18 October 2008, when he was returned to Prison #14 without having finished his treatment. Rena Zahidova, Zakhidov's wife, reported that he was also beaten in the kidneys and stomach by the management chief and his colleagues. On 27 October, delegates from the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Norwegian, French and US embassies went to the prison where a closed meeting was held with Zakhidov, who, according to reports, reported that although his condition had improved, he remained unwell.

It is said that this assault against Zakhidov could be linked to the publication of his poem "Ilhamla Ireli" (Forward with Ilham), written in prison and published in the pro-opposition newspaper "Azadlig" on 15 October 2008, the day of Azerbaijan's Presidential elections.

On 4 October 2006, Zakhidov, journalist and satirist for the newspaper "Azadlig", as well as a poet, was sentenced to three years in prison on drug charges, which are widely considered to be fabricated. Zahidov's brother, Ganimat Zakhidov, the editor of "Azadlig", is also imprisoned after being sentenced to four years in prison for "hooliganism and intentional inflicting of bodily harm". Ganimat Zakhidov regarded his conviction as retaliation for his writings, which are critical of President Aliyev and his associates.

For more on this case, go to:

Background on the case from Euraisanet: http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav072006.shtml

Committee to Protect Journalists report: http://www.cpj.org/elmar/index.html

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