(IRFS/IFEX) - 29 October 2010 - Please send a letter in support of former editor-in-chief of "Gundelik Azerbaijan" and "Realniy Azerbaidjan" newspapers Eynulla Fatullayev, who just ended a 10-day hunger strike in protest of his continued detention.
Fatullayev has been in prison since 2007 and is recognised as a prisoner of conscience by local and international organisations.
On 22 April, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a ruling calling for Fatullayev's immediate release. The Azerbaijani government filed an appeal with the Grand Chamber of the ECHR, which was subsequently dismissed. A final ECHR ruling once again reiterated the call for the editor's immediate release. Despite the ECHR ruling, the Azerbaijani government has refused to release him.
Along with other international free expression organisations, IRFS is actively campaigning for the editor's release and is calling on all members of the concerned public to send a letter to the President of Azerbaijan, copying the Chair of Parliament and the Chairman of the Supreme Court in protest of Fatullayev's continued detention and defiance of the ECHR ruling.
According to Fatullayev's father Emin Fatullayev, the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan will formally consider the 22 April ECHR decision on 11 November.
Please send your letter of support before 11 November by email and copy irfs.az (@) gmail.com and campaigns (@) ifex.org .
Dear Mr President,
The editor-in-chief of "Gundelik Azerbaijan" and "Realniy Azerbaidjan" newspapers Eynulla Fatullayev is still being held in prison, despite the fact that European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has issued a ruling for his immediate release. In protest against his treatment by the judicial system, in particular the government's refusal to acknowledge the ECHR decision, Fatullayev carried out a 10-day hunger strike.
In addition to Fatullayev, there are two youth bloggers in prison: Emin Abdullayev (Milli) and Adnan Hajizadeh.
We call on you Mr. President, the guarantor of the Azerbaijani Constitution and protector of the security of Azerbaijani citizens, to ensure the implementation of ECHR decision, and to immediately release Abdullayev and Hajizadeh.
As you know, the ECHR decreed on 22 April 2010 stated that Fatullayev be released immediately, and that the Azerbaijani government pay him 27,822 EUR in compensation. The Azerbaijani government did not endorse the decision and filed an appeal with the Grand Chamber of the ECHR on 16 July 2010. However, the Grand Chamber dismissed the government's appeal, and gave a final ruling on the case. Fatullayev must be released and given financial compensation. This judgment is final and absolute, but Fatullayev remains behind bars.
We believe that Eynulla Fatullayev, charged with threatening terror, incitement of ethnic, national, social or religious hatred and sentenced to 8.5 years in jail in 2007, was in reality imprisoned for his editorial articles criticizing the Azerbaijani authorities. The EHCR judgment provides a solid endorsement for the journalist's innocence.
Anticipating the European Court's decision, the Azerbaijani government engineered a criminal set-up. In December 2009, just before the European Court announced its decision, narcotics were planted on Fatullayev's person. Following this action, Fatullayev faced a second criminal charge for possession of narcotics. The Garadag District Court sentenced him to 2.5 years imprisonment. We consider this an unfair ruling. By giving the journalist an additional sentence, the judge implemented a political directive, designed to prolong Fatullayev's prison time.
Regardless of the outcome of the narcotics case, Fatullayev's continued imprisonment is illegal. Firstly, during the course of the narcotics case, the Court did not sentence Fatullayev to pre-trial detention. Secondly, the Garadag District Court decision can only be implemented after Fatullayev's appeal is investigated and the decision is upheld. Currently, the case is pending in the Baku Appeals Court, and a decision will not be reached for several weeks. In light of these various considerations, it is clear that Fatullayev's pre-trial detention is illegal.
We believe that freedom of expression in Azerbaijan is being threatened to the point of extinction. There are no independent television channels or radio stations. Journalists are regularly charged with defamation and other crimes, forcing them to resort to self-censorship to avoid persecution. There is no market for media advertising making it impossible for the mass media to achieve financial independence.
We believe that the imprisonment of journalists during the immediate run-up to these crucial parliamentary elections is highly damaging to the reputation of the Azerbaijani government, not only within the country, but internationally.
Again, we call on you Mr. President to take responsibility for the execution of the ECHR decision, to stop the investigations of false narcotics charges, and to release Adnan Hajizadeh and Emin Milli.
[Your name and affiliation]
President Ilham Aliyev
19 Istiqlaliyyat Street
Fax: +994 12 492 3543 and +994 12 492 0625
E-mail: [email protected]
Mr. Ramiz Rzayev
Supreme Court Chairman
Yusif Safarov 14
Fax: +994 12 510 5559
E-mail: [email protected]
Mr. Oqtay Asadov
Chairman of Parliament
Fax: +994 12 498 9722
E-mail: [email protected]