July 16, 2008

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

Minister of Internal Affairs
Lt.-Gen. Ramil Usubov                                                                                     
Ministry of Internal Affairs                                                                                    
Husu Hajiyev Street 7, 370005
Baku, Azerbaijan                                
Fax: +994 12 492 45 90

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 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 about the 10-year sentence given to editor Novruzali Mamedov.

According to our information, on June 24, 2008, Novruzali Mamedov, editor of the Talysh-minority-language newspaper Talyshi Sado, and head of the Talysh Cultural Center, was convicted of treason under Article 247 of Azerbaijan’s penal code for the “distribution of Talysh nationalist ideas and attempts to destroy the foundations of the Azerbaijani state,” and sentenced to 10 years in prison in a closed trial. The case was reportedly based on allegations that Mr. Mamedov had received money from Iran to publish the newspaper, but prosecutors have not publicly explained or commented on the charges. The verdict was given in the absence of Mr. Mamedov’s defense attorney, relatives, and the press.

Mr. Mamedov has been held since February 2007, initially on charges of “resisting law enforcement” and later on the treason charge. In his first 15 days in custody, Mr. Mamedov was held incommunicado at a Ministry of National Security detention center, and neither family members nor lawyers were able to visit him. Talyshi Sado stopped publishing after the arrest.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned about the reports of the closed trial against Novruzali Mamedov, which is in direct violation of Articles 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Azerbaijan is a signatory, and believes that he is being held in violation of his rights to freedom of expression and association. We therefore respectfully call for authorities to provide substantive evidence to back up the charges against Mr. Mamedov or to release him immediately and unconditionally.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

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

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