“We’ll hold Ilham Aliyev personally responsible if anything happens to this blogger in France” RSF says

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to put an immediate stop to all threats and violence against Mahammad Mirzali, an Azerbaijani video blogger who is a refugee in France. He was badly stabbed in an attack last March and continues to be threatened near his home for criticising his country’s authoritarian leader.

Mirzali no longer dares leave his apartment because his attackers or their accomplices have discovered where he lives in the northwestern city of Nantes and he is alarmed by the activity he has observed around his home.

Wednesday, June 2, an unidentified person took photos of his apartment building. This person then approached the building and tried to enter but fled when Mirzali began shouting for the police to come. The day before, Mirzali found that someone had broken the windows of his car and had left a message inside that said: “This is for you.”

“They are going to kill me,” Mirzali said, adding that he is no longer able to sleep despite having bought material to reinforce the door to his apartment.

A refugee in France since 2016 and outspoken critic of Azerbaijan’s ruling Aliyev family in his blogs, Mirzali was the target of a vicious knife attack in the center of Nantes on 14 March, which he described in a video that RSF filmed in Nantes on his release from hospital. Several shots were fired at him just after he got into his car in Nantes in October 2020.

Although unidentified persons keep on sending threats to his mobile phone, he continues to post critical videos on his YouTube channel, Made in Azerbaijan.

“Mahammad Mirzali’s life is in danger in France because he dares to say out loud what he thinks of the regime headed by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, his wife, Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva, and other members of their family,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“We remind President Aliyev that, as a refugee, Mahammad Mirzali is under France’s protection and that it is extremely serious for a regime to try to export its repressive methods in order to silence critics beyond its borders. If anything at all happens to Mahammad Mirzali on French soil, President Aliyev will not only be held personally responsible but will also have to face condemnation by the entire world and exclusion from the international community.”

Mirzali’s family in Azerbaijan has also been targeted. Several intimate videos of his sister were posted online in an attempt to silence him and stones were thrown at her home shortly before the attack against Mirzali in Nantes. His father and brother-in-law were also arrested in 2017 in order to put pressure on him.

Azerbaijan is ranked 167th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index. Most of the country’s critical media outlets have been silenced or have had to relocate abroad, the main independent websites are blocked, and at least two journalists are currently in prison. France is ranked 34th in the Index.

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