June 8, 2010

President Ilham Aliyev
Office of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic
19 Istiqlaliyyat Street
Baku AZ1066
Fax: + 994 12 492 0625

Minister of Internal Affairs
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 welcome the recent European Court of Human Rights ruling on editor Eynulla Fatullayev and urge authorities to meet the terms of the ruling without delay.

According to our information, the European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously on April 22, 2010, that Eynulla Fatullayev’s 2007 convictions were contrary to his right freedom of expression, as stated under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The European Court’s position is that Eynulla Fatullayev should be released immediately and should also be given compensation.

Eynulla Fatullayev, editor of Russian language weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the Azeri language weekly Gündelike Azerbaijan, was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison on charges of defamation, terrorism, incitement of ethnic hatred and tax evasion. PEN and other human rights monitors consider him to be imprisoned because of his history of human rights reporting, including an article he published in his newspaper that argued that the Azerbaijani support of United States foreign policy would make an attack on Azerbaijan by Iran more likely.

While Fatullayev was serving his sentence at Prison #12, in Baku, prison guards allegedly found 0.22 grams of heroin in his prison cell on December 30, 2009. He was taken to the Garadag District Court, where after a 15-minute hearing, a judge ordered that he should be held in an isolation cell while he awaits trial on drug possession charges. This trial is ongoing. If found guilty, Fatullayev could be imprisoned for an additional three years. Drug tests prove that he was not taking the drug, and international human rights observers have concluded that these charges have been fabricated and are being used to further penalize him for his opinions.

PEN American Center agrees with the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling that Eynulla Fatullayev was tried in violation of his right to freedom of expression as protected under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Azerbaijan is a signatory. We therefore urge authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally, to drop the drug charges against him, and to compensate him fairly for the treatment against him.

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

>> Back to Rapid Action