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Imprisoned editor concerned over possible threat to his life

(IRFS/IFEX) - Eynulla Fatullayev, the imprisoned editor-in-chief of the "Gundelik Azerbaijan" and "Realniy Azerbaijan" newspapers, has addressed an appeal to the Internal Affairs Ministry, the Penitentiary Services' leadership, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists expressing concern over a threat to his life, according to the Turan Information Agency.

Fatullayev said that the heroin possession charges that have been brought against him constitute the first stage in an assassination plan by an organised group within the administration. He pointed out that there is a plan to use methods similar to those used to murder Rena Nasibova. Nasibova, who investigated the crimes committed by Haji Mammadov's criminal group, was asphyxiated. However, it was alleged that she died as the result of a drug overdose. Fatullayev emphasised that the allegation that he uses more dangerous drugs has paved the way for the next step and noted that the fact that a high level of security is being provided for him but not for other prisoners in the Baku Investigative Prison is a sign pointing to real danger.

The editor-in-chief said that only one guard is allowed to come close to his surveillance camera and stressed that actions against him are expected following the narcotics charges.

On 29 December 2009, 0.223 grams of heroin were allegedly found on Fatullayev. The editor and his lawyer say the drugs were planted as part of a set-up to counteract an upcoming decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding Fatullayev's case. A criminal case was opened against Fatullayev in the Garadag District Investigative Department under article 234.1 of the Criminal Code (Illegal purchase or storage without a purpose of selling of narcotics or psychotropic substances in an amount exceeding that necessary for personal consumption) and he was transferred to the Baku Investigative Prison #2 on 2 January 2010. Fatullayev has said that the drug charges against him are spurious and politically motivated.

Fatullayev was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on 21 April 2007 on a charge of "insulting honour and dignity." He was later convicted under articles 214.1 (threatening terror), 283.2.2 (incitement of ethnic/national, social or religious hatred, abusing authority), and 213.2.2 (tax evasion) of the Criminal Code and was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison on 30 October 2007. Prior to the new charge against him, Fatullayev was serving his sentence in prison #12.

In a separate aspect of Fatulleyev's case, an appeal has been filed against the 25 February 2010 decision by the Garadag District Court to prolong the editor's detention in the Baku Investigative Prison for an additional two months. In the appeal, Fatullayev is seeking the annulment of the decision.

The editor's lawyer, Elchin Sadigov, told Radio Liberty that the appeal was submitted to the Garadag District Court on 1 March. In accordance with legislation, the Garadag District Court has to send it to the Baku Appellate Court.

Fatullayev noted in his appeal that the Penitentiary Services' leadership offered him the possibility of addressing a request for a pardon to the president via his relatives. "According to their terms, I was supposed to admit to my faults and guarantee that I will not criticise Ilham Aliyev and Mehriban Aliyeva, or that I will leave the country," the editor said, adding that he refused the offer. Fatullayev also noted that the manuscripts of a book he was writing about events in the country in recent years were taken from him by the Penitentiary Services' leadership.

Fatullayev says that he was imprisoned for his investigation into the murder of Elmar Huseynov. As a result of the investigation, he said he was able to trace who was behind the murder and had concluded that "all suspicions hovered around" National Security Ministry officer Akif Chovdarov.

"Realniy Azerbaijan" was a weekly newspaper, while "Gundelik Azerbaijan" was published as a daily from 2005 to 2007. Fatullayev established the newspapers and was the editor-in-chief of both publications. The newspapers ceased their activity after his arrest in 2007.

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