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IRFS journalist Idrak Abbasov briefly detained, mistreated by National Security Ministry personnel in Nakhchivan

(IRFS/IFEX) - The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) is extremely concerned about the health and well-being of its journalist and researcher Idrak Abbasov. Abbasov has been hospitalised with heart problems since 20 February 2009, when he returned to Baku from Nakhchivan. Abbasov said that he was subjected to physical and psychological pressure by the National Security Ministry (NSM) in Nakhchivan.

On 18 February, Abbasov and IRFS colleague Rashad Aliyev traveled to Nakhchivan to investigate the human rights and press freedom situation in the region. When they arrived, they sent an official letter requesting a meeting with officials from the Nakhchivan NSM. On 20 February at 11:45 a.m. (local time), they were instructed to go to the ministry building at noon for the meeting. Upon their arrival at the NSM, officials informed Abassov and Aliyev that they could not enter together and allowed only Abbasov in.

According to Abbasov, upon entering the building, his hands were restrained and he was blindfolded. NSM employees took the journalist's mobile telephone and photo and video cameras. "Although I told them I have heart problems and had to take medicine several times, they behaved aggressively towards me," said Abbasov. "One person, who did not introduce himself, said that I was assisting IRFS in cooperating with Armenia and other foreign countries, and he exerted psychological pressure on me. He even threw the folder he was holding at me."

Abbasov was finally released at 2:05 p.m., but only after NSM employees deleted all the photos and video footage on his cameras and ordered him go directly to the airport and leave Nakhchivan.

IRFS believes that the actions against Abbasov violate articles 3 (prohibition of torture), 5 (right to liberty and security) and 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and articles 133 (torture), 145 (illegal deprivation of freedom) and 163 (interference in the professional work of a journalist) of Azerbaijan's Criminal Code. In light of this, IRFS calls on the government of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and the Republic of Azerbaijan to investigate this incident and bring to justice those responsible. IRFS further calls on the local and international community to demand democratic reforms in the autonomous enclave of Nakhchivan, which has the worst human rights record in Azerbaijan and should not be afforded a double standard because it is not attached to the rest of the country. Lastly, IRFS calls on Azerbaijan's government to put an end to its repression of freedom of expression and to fulfill its international obligations in the areas of freedom of expression and human rights.

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