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Journalist's relatives beaten, home attacked with excavator

(RSF/IFEX) - 14 September 2011 - The severe beating of members of journalist Idrak Abbasov's family and the partial destruction of their home in a Baku suburb with an excavator on 9 September on the grounds that it was built illegally have highlighted the surprising brutality of the methods sometimes used by the Azerbaijani authorities to censor and intimidate.

The attack was carried out by security personnel working for the state-owned Binagadi Oil Company, whose illegal activities were being investigated by Abbasov, a member of the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS), an Azerbaijani NGO.

"This was a punitive action," Reporters Without Borders said. "This attack was clearly designed to silence Abbasov, whose investigative reporting disturbed the Binagadi Oil Company. It sheds a harsh light on the methods used to intimidate journalists in Azerbaijan. As well as directly threatening and attacking journalists themselves, the authorities do not hesitate to target their families."

The Binagadi Oil Company, a subsidiary of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic, has been demolishing houses on the outskirts of Baku in order to pump oil. Houses built 20 years ago have been razed and their inhabitants have been compensated or relocated. The company's representatives had for months been threatening Abbasov's father and brother with the demolition of their home if he did not stop investigating.

The house where Abbasov's relatives had been living for the past 25 years in the Baku suburb of Sulutepe was invaded by men dressed in black at around 11 a.m. on 9 September without any prior eviction notice being served.

His parents, his brothers and their children were all severely beaten with clubs. His father, mother and one of his brothers were hospitalized. His father is currently in a coma while his mother and brother were treated for concussions in an intensive care unit.

The case recalls that of human rights activist Leyla Yunus, the founder of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, whose premises were bulldozed on 11 August on the pretext that they were located where a park was to be built in homage to former President Heydar Aliyev, the current president's father.
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