November 22, 2011

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 recent attack on writer Rafiq Tagi.

According to our information, on November 19, 2011, Rafiq Tagi was violently attacked by two unidentified male assailants as he was returning from work in Baku. Tagi suffered six stab wounds, broken ribs, a fractured shoulder blade, and injuries to his stomach and diaphragm. He underwent four hours of emergency surgery to remove his spleen. It was reported that Tagi avoided even more serious injuries by shielding his chest with a book he was carrying at the time. Tagi is now reported to be in stable condition in a hospital in Baku.

Although the motive for the attack remains unconfirmed, it is alleged that Tagi may have been targeted for a November 10 article entitled, “Iran and the Inevitability of Globalization,” in which he criticized the Iranian regime and described threats made by Iran against Azerbaijan as “ridiculous.” We understand that a criminal investigation into the attack has been launched by the Khatai District Prosecutor’s Office.

Rafiq Tagi is an Honorary Member of several PEN centers. He was previously arrested in November 2006 for his article, “Europe and Us,” published in the newspaper Sanat, for which he was charged with insulting the Prophet Mohammad. Following the publication of the article, Grand Ayatollah Fazil Lankarani of Iran issued a fatwa calling for Tagi’s death. He was sentenced to three years in prison under Article 283 of the Azerbaijani Criminal Code for “inciting national, racial and religious enmity.” Tagi was granted amnesty on December 28, 2007, following significant international pressure.

PEN American Center condemns the violent attack on Rafiq Tagi, and expresses concern that the attack may have resulted from his legitimate exercise of his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Azerbaijan is a state party. We therefore call for a full and impartial investigation into the attack, examining the possibility that it may have been carried out in relation to his legitimate work as a journalist.

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

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