Journalist's additional 30-month jail sentence is unfair and politically-motivated

Published on 6 July 2010

Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the additional 30-month jail sentence that a court in the Baku district of Garadag imposed today on Eynulla Fatullayev, an opposition newspaper editor who has been detained since 20 April 2007. The court convicted him of illegal possession of a narcotic – 220 mg of heroin allegedly found in his clothes during a search of his cell in Prison No. 12 on 29 December.

“We strongly condemn the imposition of an additional sentence on this journalist,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We regard it as politically motivated and as yet further evidence of the government’s determination to silence its critics. It shows the contempt with which the authorities regard the European Court of Human Rights, which called for his release in a 22 April ruling.”

The press freedom organisation added: “We point out that this conviction comes just days after a visit by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who expressed concern about two imprisoned bloggers, Adnan Hadjizade and Emin Mili. Like Fatullayev, they were also jailed on trumped-up charges.”

Reporters Without Borders is also astonished that the judge ruled that that Fatullayev’s new jail sentence should take effect from today rather than from 31 December, the day he was transferred to Prison No. 12 and placed in pre-trial isolation.

Fatullayev described his latest conviction as a flagrant example of the lack of justice in Azerbaijan and of how “under criminal and authoritarian regimes, the journalist’s best reward is the sentence he receives.” His father, Emin Fatullayev, said the sentence was imposed in response to “a political order from the president’s office.”

A respected journalist recognised as a political prisoner by the international community, Fatullayev was the editor of two newspapers which have been closed down, the weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the daily Gundelik Azerbaijan.

Following his arrest in 2007, he was convicted the following year on charges of “insulting the honour and dignity of the Azerbaijani people,” refusing to pay taxes and making “terrorist threats” in an article that accused the Azerbaijani armed forces of sharing responsibility with their Armenian counterparts for the deaths of hundreds of civilians during an attack by Armenian troops in 1992 on the village of Khojali in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Both Azerbaijan and Armenia claim sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh. Although a ceasefire has been observed since 1994, no agreement has ever been signed between the two governments.