February 23, 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 3,400 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 new drug possession charges brought against editor Eynulla Fatullayev.

According to our information, guards at Prison #12 in Baku, where Fautullayev is serving his eight-and-a-half-year sentence, allegedly found 0.22 grams of heroin in his prison cell. Fatullayev, editor of 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. If found guilty of the charges, Fatullayev could be imprisoned for three additional years. No date has been set for the trial. He has denied being in possession of the drug and claims it was planted on him. Recent drug tests prove that he was not taking the drug.

Fatullayev’s case appeared for consideration before the European Court of Human Rights on January 28, 2010, for unjust prosecution for his previous convictions, but no decision has yet been made. In October 2007, he was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison on charges of defamation, terrorism, inciting ethnic hatred, and tax evasion. At the time of that sentencing, Fatullayev was already serving a sentence of two-and-a-half-years’ imprisonment on charges of libel and insult for an article he denied writing. Fatullayev has a history of challenging the Azerbaijani authorities and many believe the charges are another way of silencing him.It is feared that the drug charge ensures Fatullayev will remain imprisoned despite the European Court’s decision.

PEN American Center believes the continued detention of Eynulla Fatullayev and other writers and journalists in Azerbaijan 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 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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