November 11, 2010

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 deep concern regarding the degrading treatment and continued imprisonment of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev.

According to our information, the appeal hearing of Eynulla Fatullayev’s two-and-a-half-year sentence for possession of drugs took place on November 5, 2010. During the hearing Fatullayev was reportedly kept in a cage, which not only humiliated him but kept him from effectively communicating with his lawyer, who described the conditions of the trial as disgraceful and walked out of the court. Fatullayev’s request to suspend the hearing was refused. Furthermore, in contravention of Azerbaijani law, which requires two weeks’ notification of a hearing date, Fatullayev was only informed of his hearing the morning it was due to take place. His defense lawyer was therefore denied adequate time to prepare for the hearing.

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 on charges of defamation, terrorism, incitement of ethnic hatred and tax evasion. On July 6, 2010, he was sentenced to a further two and a half years in prison for possession of drugs, a sentence that was set to begin in full starting from the date of conviction. As he had already served half a year in pre-trial isolation, this effectively added another six months to his sentence. PEN and other human rights organizations maintain that these charges were fabricated and that Fatullayev is being punished solely for his critical reporting.

PEN American Center is appalled by the humiliating treatment of Eynulla Fatullayev during his appeal hearing and the fact that he is still imprisoned despite the April 22, 2010 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which said that Fatullayev’s 2007 convictions were contrary to his right to freedom of expression, as protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Azerbaijan is a signatory, and that he should be released immediately and awarded U.S.$33,400 in compensation. We therefore call on the Azerbaijani authorities to comply with the ruling and release Fatullayev immediately and unconditionally, and provide him with U.S.$33,400 compensation, as well as to end his humiliating treatment. 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 prompt attention to this critical matter.

Hannah Pakula                    
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee                 
Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

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

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