(IRFS/IFEX) - The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers has released its final statement on the case of imprisoned journalist Eynulla Fatullayev. The statement emphasizes that, as a member of the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan has agreed to abide by the final judgment of the court.
"The November 11th ruling by the Azerbaijani Supreme Court makes Fatullayev's release possible. However, he remains behind bars and there are still questions being asked about the legality of his imprisonment since April 2007. We call upon the Azerbaijani government to immediately consider this issue and take every measure to release the journalist and replace his prison sentence with some other penal measure, if indeed, that is deemed necessary," said the Committee.
On the 20 April 2007, Fatullayev was arrested in court after a ruling by the Yasamal District Court on the lawsuit brought by Refugee/IDP Rights Defense Committee chairperson Tatyana Chaladze. After Fatullayev's arrest, a criminal case was opened against him by the National Security Ministry's Chief Investigative Office, regarding an article published in the "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 and 283.2.2 of the Criminal Code: threatening terror and incitement of ethnic/national, social or religious hatred and abusing authority. He was sentenced to pre-trial detention. Fatullayev was then convicted under 213.2.2 (tax evasion). He was finally sentenced to 8.5 years in prison on 30 October 2007 and fined 242,522 AZN (approx. US$303,600) by the Serious Crimes Court.
On 29 December 2009, 0.223 grams of heroin was reportedly found on Fatullayev in Prison #12 and on 6 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 22 April 2010, the ECHR issued a decision that Fatullayev should be released immediately, and that the Azerbaijani government should pay 27,822 EUR to Fatullayev in compensation. The Plenum of Supreme Court partially fulfilled this decision on November 11. Fatullayev is recognized as a prisoner of conscience by local and international organizations.
Fatullayev established and was the 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. The newspapers stopped running after Fatullayev's arrest in 2007.