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IRFS appeals to president as imprisoned editor starts hunger strike

(IRFS/IFEX) - 3 June 2010 - The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) has appealed to the Azerbaijani Republic's President, Ilham Aliyev, regarding Eynulla Fatullayev, the imprisoned editor-in-chief of "Gundelik Azerbaijan" and "Realniy Azerbaijan" newspapers.

The appeal below was signed by IRFS Chairman Emin Huseynov:

Mr. President,

On 2 June, during a hearing held in the Garadag District Court, under the chairmanship of Judge Ismayil Khalilov, regarding the criminal case opened against the editor-in-chief of "Gundelik Azerbaijan" and "Realniy Azerbaijan" newspapers Eynulla Fatullayev, the journalist declared that he began a hunger strike. Fatullayev emphasized that he began the hunger strike to determine whether the president is aware of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights regarding him, or not.

He noted in his speech that the Constitutional Court Chairman, Farhad Abdullayev, and the head of Azerbaijani Delegation at PACE, Samad Seyidov, gave false information to the public that an appeal was sent to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. Fatullayev appealed to his journalist colleagues to meet with President Ilham Aliyev and Presidential Administration Head Ramiz Mehdiyev.

Fatullayev requested that the journalists determine during their meeting whether the president is aware of the decision of the ECHR and added that he will continue his hunger strike until he receives information about the president's familiarity with the decision.

"The president refers to international law regarding all issues. Especially, he reproaches Armenia's failure to fulfill the decisions put forth by international conventions regarding the Garabag issue. If he is aware of the decision adopted by the European Court of Human Rights regarding my case, the execution of this decision will have to be taken seriously," said Fatullayev.

Fatullayev was recognized as a prisoner of conscience by local and international communities. The European Court of Human Rights issued a decision regarding the case; the decision states that the journalist should be released immediately and the Azerbaijani government should pay 27,822 EUR to Fatullayev in compensation.

Mr. President, we ask you to give us information as to whether or not you are aware of the ECHR decision regarding Eynulla Fatullayev, and we ask you to conduct a meeting with the heads of media organizations and carry out discussions regarding this decision.


BACKGROUND:

Eynulla Fatullayev was arrested in the court hall on 20 April 2007 under the decision adopted by the Yasamal District Court on the lawsuit of Refugee/IDP Rights Defense Committee Chairperson Tatyana Chaladze.

After his arrest, a criminal case was opened against him in the National Security Ministry Chief Investigative Office regarding an article published in "Realniy Azerbaijan", which, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, caused safety concerns for foreign citizens and representatives of international organs. He was convicted under articles 214.1 (threatening terror), 283.2.2 (incitement of ethnic/national, social or religious hatred abusing authority) of the Criminal Code and was sentenced to pre-trial detention. Fatullayev was then convicted under 213.2.2 (tax evasion).

Fatullayev was sentenced to 8.5 years of imprisonment on 30 October 2007 under the decision adopted by the Grave Crimes Court and was fined in the amount of 242,522 AZN (approx. 252,000 EUR)

On 29 December 2009, 0.223 grams heroin was found on Fatullayev. He and his lawyer assess this incident as an operation set up to prevent the decision of the ECHR regarding the journalist that was to take place in the near future. 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 necessary limit for personal consumption) and he was transferred to the Baku Investigative Prison #2 on 2 January 2010. The investigation into the case was concluded and it is being considered in the Garadag District Court.

"Realniy Azerbaijan" has been published as weekly newspaper, and "Gundelik Azerbaijan" was published as a daily newspaper starting in 2005. 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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