October 6, 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 3,500 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 grave concern regarding the conviction of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev on drug charges, which we believe have been fabricated.

According to our information, Eynulla Fatullayev, who has been serving an eight-and-a-half-year sentence for “defamation, terrorism, incitement of ethnic hatred, and tax evasion,” was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for possession of drugs on July 6, 2010. He had been charged on December 30, 2009, after prison guards said they discovered heroin in his cell. Fatullayev maintains that the drugs were planted by the guards. His case appeared for consideration before the European Court of Human Rights on January 28, 2010, for unjust prosecution for his previous convictions. On April 22, 2010, the court ruled that Fatullayev’s 2007 convictions were in violation of his right to freedom of expression, as stated under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court ordered that Fatullayev be released immediately, and awarded US$33,400 in compensation, yet he remains in prison. We understand that the government has appealed the ruling.

On October 30, 2007, Fatullayev, the former editor of the now-defunct Russian language weekly Realny Azerbaijan, and the Azeri language weekly Gündelike Azerbaijan, was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison. At the time of his sentencing, he was already serving two and a half years in prison on charges of libel and insult for an article he denies writing. There are fears that Fatullayev is being punished for his critical views.

PEN American Center is alarmed by the continued imprisonment of Eynulla Fatullayev despite the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. We believe that the charges against him are a result of a dramatic deterioration in freedom of expression in Azerbaijan—especially as the November 2010 parliamentary elections approach—where journalists are forced to carry out their work under persistent pressure from the authorities, resulting in a prominent climate of self-censorship. We remind authorities that as a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, Azerbaijan is bound to comply with the rulings of the European Court. We therefore call on authorities to comply with the European Court of Human Rights and immediately and unconditionally release Fatullayev and supply him with stated compensation of US$33,400. We also call for an end to the imprisonment and harassment of all journalists in Azerbaijan solely for the peaceful practice of their right to freedom of expression.

Thank you for your urgent attention to this critical matter.

Hannah Pakula                        
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee     

Larry Siems            
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Ambassador Yashar T. Aliyev
Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan
2741 34th St., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 337-5911

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