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Journalist sentenced to two years in prison

(IRFS/IFEX) - The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) condemns the verdict issued on 1 July 2009 sentencing Mahal Ismayiloglu, a "Yeni Musavat" newspaper columnist and former editor-in-chief of the "Khalgâ" newspaper, to conditional imprisonment for two years.

In the Absheron District Police Department investigative center a criminal case was initiated against Ismayiloglu on the basis of a lawsuit filed against him by his neighbor's servant. In the lawsuit, the servant alleged that Ismayiloglu beat her for dumping trash in his yard. Ismayiloglu claims that this incident never occurred and his neighbor is angry about articles that he wrote. The case was sent to the Absheron District Court for consideration.

Contradictory statements given by the plaintiff and plaintiff's witnesses showed that the case against Ismayiloglu was spurious and he was being prosecuted for articles he wrote about the government.

Ismayiloglu suffers from heart disease and needs heart surgery abroad. However, the sentence prohibits him from leaving the country, seriously jeopardising his physical welfare. The severity of the verdict is evidence of the ill will the government harbours towards Ismayiloglu and shows that his punishment is politically-motivated.

Stating that the defendant was found guilty under articles 127 and 128, relating to the infliction of bodily harm and article 221.3 (hooliganism with use of a weapon or weapon-like item) of the Criminal Code, Judge S. Abbasov issued a verdict sentencing Ismayiloglu to conditional imprisonment for two years and to pay 30 AZN (approx. US$37) to the injured party. Although Prosecutor T. Suleymanov demanded that Ismayiloglu be sentenced to three years of conditional imprisonment, the judge emphasised that the punishment was reduced to two years because the defendant has good references and he is a person with disabilities.

IRFS calls on the Azerbaijani government to annul the politically-motivated court decision against Ismayiloglu and also calls for the immediate release of all Azerbaijan's wrongfully imprisoned journalists.

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