March 12, 2010

Ilham Aliyev
Office of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic
19 Istiqlaliyyat Street
Baku AZ1066
Fax: +994 12 492 0625
Lt.-Gen. Ramil Usubov
Ministry of Internal Affairs
Husu Hajiyev Street 7, 370005 Baku
Fax:  + 994 12 492 45 90

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,400 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern regarding the isolation orders placed on editor Eynulla Fatullayev.

According to our information, guards at Prison #12 in Baku, where Eynulla Fautullayev is serving his eight-and-a-half-year sentence, allegedly found 0.22 grams of heroin in his prison cell. On December 31, 2009, Fatullayev, editor of the Russian language weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the Azeri language weekly Gündelike Azerbaijan, was taken to the Garadag District Court, where after a 15-minute hearing, a judge reportedly ordered that for the next two months he should be held in an isolation cell while he awaits trial on a drug possession charge. On March 1 this detention order was extended for another two months until April 30. Fatullayev is facing an additional three years in prison if found guilty.

On March 3, 2009, it was reported that Fatullayev had sent an appeal from prison, addressed to the Azerbaijani Internal Affairs Ministry, the head of the prison services, and international human rights groups saying that he fears there may be a plot to assassinate him under the pretext of a drug overdose. In his appeal, he refers to the case of Rena Nasibova, a witness in an investigation of an alleged criminal gang said to be active within the Ministry of the Interior. She was found dead in July 2004. Initial claims that she was a drug addict and had died of an overdose were later found to be false. Instead, she died of suffocation, a murder linked to her role in the criminal investigation. In the past, cases where criminal charges, including those related to narcotics have been used against political dissidents as a means of penalizing them for their activism.

PEN American Center believes the continued detention of Eynulla Fatullayev and the charges against him indicates a persistent hostility towards independent and opposition media by the Azerbaijani authorities. We fear that Mr. Fatullayev has been detained for conducting legitimate activities as a journalist, which is in violation of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which Azerbaijan is a signatory. We therefore reiterate our call for his immediate and unconditional release, and for authorities to take urgent measures to ensure the safety of journalists and freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.
Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula                                     
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee                            

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Ambassador Yaşar Aliyev
Embassy of Azerbaijan to the United States
2741 34th Street NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax (202) 337-5911

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