(IRFS/IFEX) - 22 April 2010 - The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) applauds the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the case of Eynulla Fatullayev, editor-in-chief of "Gundelik Azerbaijan" and "Realniy Azerbaijan" newspapers.
The ECHR ruled that article 10 (freedom of expression) and 6 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights were breached. The ECHR considered it unacceptable that the applicant remain imprisoned and ordered the Azerbaijani government to release him immediately. The Court further ordered the government to pay Fatullayev 27,822 euros in compensation.
Trend News Agency reports that Azerbaijan's representative at the hearing, Chingiz Esgerov, said that the Azerbaijani government intended to appeal the decision to the ECHR's Grand Chamber.
IRFS believes that the decision of the European Court of Human Rights is fair and proves that the decisions of Azerbaijani courts against Fatullayev were politically motivated.
IRFS recalls that Fatullayev, who has been recognized as a prisoner of conscience by both local and international communities, has been imprisoned for more than three years now. Another case which illustrates the Azerbaijani government's intolerance is the imprisonment of bloggers Emin Abdullayev (Milli) and Adnan Hajizade, who are also prisoners of conscience being held on politically motivated charges.
IRFS calls on the Azerbaijani government to comply with the ECHR's order and immediately free Fatullayev. IRFS also calls for the immediate release of Abdullayev and Hajizade.
Fatullayev was arrested on 20 April 2007 over an article published in "Realniy Azerbaijan" newspaper, which according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "raised safety concerns for foreign citizens and representatives of international organizations."
He was convicted under articles 214.1 (threatening terror) and 283.2.2 (incitement of ethnic, national, social or religious hatred and abuse of authority) of the Criminal Code and sentenced to pre-trial detention. Fatullayev was convicted on 30 October 2007 under 213.2.2 (tax evasion); he was sentenced to 8.5 years imprisonment by the Grave Crimes Court.
On 29 December 2009, 0.223 grams heroin were found on Fatullayev. A criminal case was opened against the journalist by the Garadag District Investigative Department and he was transferred to Baku Investigative Prison #2 on 2 January 2010.
Fatullayev and his lawyer denounced the incident as a set-up to prevent the ECHR from hearing his case.