Dutch journalist of Azerbaijani origin still stuck in Ukraine, despite ruling

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Ukrainian prosecutors to comply with a court order and return the passport of Fikret Huseynli, a Dutch journalist of Azerbaijani origin who until now has been unable to leave Ukraine and return to the Netherlands because of an extradition request by Azerbaijan.

A Kiev district court ruled on 2 April that no further restrictions should be placed on Huseynli’s movements and that he should be returned the passport that a prosecutor, Serhei Ostapets, confiscated immediately prior to the hearing.

Despite the court’s decision, the prosecutor’s office has still not returned Huseynli’s passport to him and, worse still, continues to consider Azerbaijan’s request for his extradition.

“The Ukrainian prosecutor’s office must immediately comply with the court’s decision, give Fikret Huseynli back his passport, and allow him to return to the Netherlands,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “To continue persecuting him would constitute proof of active complicity with Azerbaijan.”

Well-known as a journalist in Azerbaijan, Huseynli fled in 2008 to the Netherlands, where he obtained political asylum and then, in 2014, Dutch citizenship. He now heads the Amsterdam bureau of Turan TV, an Azerbaijani TV channel run by Azerbaijani exiles that is critical of President Ilham Aliyev’s government.

Arrested in Kiev on 14 October 2017 as a result of an Interpol red notice issued at Azerbaijan’s request, he was released conditionally two weeks later. On 13 February, a Kiev appeal court rejected the international warrant for his arrest, but the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office has repeatedly tried, without success, to have him detained again.

RSF wrote to prosecutor-general Yuriy Lutsenko in mid-March asking him to reject the extradition request and to allow Huseynli to return to the Netherlands, but no action has so far been taken in response to RSF’s letter.

Azerbaijan is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.The Aliyev government has done everything possible to crush media pluralism in recent years, throttling all of the most outspoken media outlets financially or closing them by force. At least 12 journalists and two bloggers are currently detained in connection with their reporting.