April 1, 2011

President Ilham Aliyev
Office of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic
19 Istiqlaliyyat Street
Baku, AZ 1066
Fax: + 994 12 492 0625

Lt.- Gen. Ramil Usubov
Minister of Internal Affairs
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 concern regarding the recent kidnapping and beating of journalist Seymur Khaziyev.

According to our information, Khaziyev, correspondent for Azadliq newspaper, was abducted on March 26, 2011, by six masked assailants who forced him into a bus, drove him to an unknown location, and beat him, warning him not to mention the president in any forthcoming articles.

This is not the first time Khaziyev has been attacked. In May 2010, he was beaten by unidentified officials in a police detention facility after he was arrested during an unsanctioned opposition political protest. During the incident, Khaziyev’s attackers questioned him about his criticism of the president. The officials responsible have not yet been identified or prosecuted.

We understand that the recent abduction and beating of Khaziyev follows many similar attacks against journalists since the March 2005 murder of editor Elmar Huseynov, virtually all of which remain unsolved. The incident also follows a recent wave of arrests of bloggers and youth activists in connection with a series of pro-democracy protests in Azerbaijan.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that the attack on Seymur Khaziyev is a symptom of a broad climate of impunity in Azerbaijan, where journalists and writers suffer frequent attacks and harassment in connection with their work. In order to reverse this trend of state-sponsored limits on freedom of expression, we call on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and impartially investigate this assault on Khaziyev and to prosecute those responsible, in keeping with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Azerbaijan is a state party.

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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