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ECHR upholds decision on release of Eynulla Fatullayev

(IRFS/IFEX) - A European Court of Human Rights decision calling for the immediate release of Eynulla Fatullayev, editor-in-chief of "Gundelik Azerbaijan" and "Realniy Azerbaidjan" newspapers, has been upheld, said the journalist's lawyer Elchin Sadigov. Sadigov reported that the rejection of the government's appeal to the Grand Chamber was issued on October 4th, and that this final judgment has been heard in court.

The court website calls the decision a Final Judgment, issued under Article 44.2 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Paragraph C of this Article says that, "The judgment of a Chamber shall become final when the panel of the Grand Chamber rejects the request."


BACKGROUND:

On the 20th of April, 2007, Fatullayev was arrested in the court hall after a ruling 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 by the National Security Ministry Chief Investigative Office over an article he published in "Realniy Azerbaijan" newspaper. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the article caused foreign citizens and representatives of international organizations to be concerned for their safety. He was convicted under articles 214.1 (threatening terror) and 283.2.2 (incitement of ethnic/national, social or religious hatred and abusing authority) of the Criminal Code and was sentenced to pre-trial detention. Fatullayev was then convicted under 213.2.2 (tax evasion). He was sentenced to 8.5 years in prison on the 30th of October, 2007 and was fined 242,522 AZN (approx. 216,000 EUR) under the decision of the Grave Crimes Court.

On the 29th of December, 2009, 0.223 grams of heroin was found in Fatullayev's prison cell. A criminal case was opened against him in the Garadag District Investigative Department. On the 6th of July, 2010, Fatullayev was found guilty under article 234.1 (Illegal possession of narcotics in an amount exceeding the limit for personal consumption) of the Criminal Code. His sentence of two years and six months in prison began on the same date. Fatullayev and his lawyer believe that this incident was a set-up, organized so that the court could avoid complying with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the journalist's release.

On the 22nd of April, 2010, the ECHR ruled that Fatullayev should be released immediately, and that the Azerbaijani government should pay 27,822 EUR to Fatullayev in compensation. The government filed an appeal with the Grand Chamber of the ECHR in response to the ruling.

Fatullayev is recognized as a prisoner of conscience by local and international organizations.

Fatullayev is the founder and former editor-in-chief of both "Realniy Azerbaijan" and "Gundelik Azerbaijan" newspapers. First published in 2005, "Realniy Azerbaijan" ran as a weekly newspaper, while "Gundelik Azerbaijan" was published daily. Both newspapers stopped running after Fatullayev's arrest in 2007.

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