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IRFS staff interrogated, harassed by police

(IRFS/IFEX) - The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety strongly condemns the criminal actions of the policemen who detained two IRFS employees.

While driving through the city center on 7 March 2011, Mehman Huseynov, a photographer and video operator with IRFS, and Abulfat Namazov, who is also an IRFS photographer, noticed that they were being followed by three cars. When one of the cars stopped at a traffic light, the plainclothes occupants surrounded the IRFS car, and, without identifying themselves, opened the doors and forced the IRFS employees out of their car. Without any explanation, they took the employees to the Criminal Investigations Department of the Narimanov District Police. They were then taken to the police chief's office and interrogated.

Huseynov was questioned about his Facebook account, and the video clips he had posted on YouTube. The police officers asked whether he was involved with the organisation that was behind the planned youth protest on 11 March.

Namazov was questioned about the number of IRFS employees, their salaries, where IRFS Chairman Emin Huseynov lived, his daily movements between home and office, etc. The questions made it clear that several IRFS employees, including the IRFS head and his family, had been regularly followed. When the IRFS employees did not give correct answers to the officers' questions they were told that the answer was wrong, and the officers then provided the correct answers.

Huseynov was forced to give a written statement of explanation about his internet activities.

Huseynov and Namazov were released after being detained for two hours. The police officers returned their car, though Namazov noticed that it had been searched.

Unable to get an official receipt for their detention, the employees returned to the IRFS office. It should be noted that police had visited the IRFS office two hours before Namazov and Huseynov were detained to question staff about participants at a recent protest over the arrest of youth activists. That same evening other IRFS employees were followed.

IRFS considers the illegal actions of the police an attempt to pressure its employees and the organisation as a whole.

IRFS calls on the political leadership of Azerbaijan to put an end to the illegal actions of law enforcement agencies. IRFS also calls for the immediate release of prisoner of conscience Eynulla Fatullayev, along with the youth activists arrested for their online activities: Jabbar Savalanli, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, Dayanat Babayev, Sakhavat Soltanli and Rashadat Akhundov.

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