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Journalist says he was tortured in prison

UPDATE: Courts refuse to release Khayal TV correspondents (IRFS, 19 July 2012)

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, April 25, 2012 - Azerbaijani journalist Zaur Guliyev, who has been held in pre-trial detention since his March 13 arrest following unrest in the region of Quba, has accused the country's government of torturing him.

Guliyev, the editor-in-chief of Xayal TV, made the claim in a statement to Azerbaijani non-governmental organisation For Human Rights, the group said yesterday.

He accused the government of physical and psychological intimidation while he was held at the Interior Ministry's Main Organized Criminality Combat Division in Baku, including extended interrogations and inhumane prison conditions, and the withholding of necessary medical treatment.

Guliyev and Xayal TV Executive Director Vugar Gonagov were reportedly arrested as part of a police investigation into who posted a video of remarks by Quba's governor on YouTube that led to riots by local residents who considered the remarks insulting, which in turn led to the local governor's firing. The two journalists reportedly face up to three years in prison on charges of violating public order and abuse of authority.

IPI Acting Deputy Director Anthony Mills said: “We are gravely concerned at the report on the conditions under which Mr. Guliyev and Gonagov are apparently being detained and we urge the government to conduct a full, swift and transparent investigation into his allegations.”

For Human Rights founder and IPI Azerbaijan National Committee member Eynulla Fatullayev – who was released last May after spending four years in prison based, in part, on alleged violations of anti-terrorism law following his reporting on the potential ramifications of his country's support for the United States in the event that the country went to war within Iran – reported that he sent a request to Interior Minister Ramil Usubov seeking to observe the conditions of detention at the Interior Ministry's Main Organized Criminality Combat Division, but received no reply.

Speaking for the IPI's National Committee, Fatullayev commented, “Although Azerbaijan is trying to improve its image in the run-up to the Eurovision song contest in Baku at the end of May, journalists' rights continue to be flouted."
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