International PEN urges Azerbaijan to immediately comply with the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling that journalist Eynulla Fatullayev be released from prison. Fatullayev remains in prison five months after the European Court ruled unanimously that he had been convicted on charges in violation of his right to freedom of expression, and that he should be freed and compensated for his detention. PEN considers him to be imprisoned because of his history of human rights reporting. PEN is also deeply concerned by Fatullayev’s recent conviction and sentencing to an extra two and a half years’ imprisonment for possession of drugs, a charge that international human rights observers consider fabricated.

Background Information

According to PEN’s information, Eynulla Fatullayev, the former editor of the now-defunct Russian language weekly Realny Azerbaijan, and the Azeri language weekly Gündelike Azerbaijan, was sentenced on October 30, 2007, to eight and a half years in prison on charges of defamation, terrorism, incitement of ethnic hatred, and tax evasion. At the time of the sentencing, Fatullayev was already serving a sentence of two and a half years on charges of libel and insult for an article he denies writing. Fatullayev has a long history of challenging the Azerbaijani authorities and on one occasion published an article in his newspaper arguing that the Azerbaijani support of United States foreign policy would increase the likelihood of an attack on Azerbaijan by Iran.

On April 22, 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Fatullayev’s 2007 convictions were contrary to his right to freedom of expression, as stated under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court said that Fatullayev should be immediately released and that he should be awarded US$33,400 in compensation. He remains in prison.

As a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, Azerbaijan is bound to comply with the rulings of the European Court. The country’s government appealed against the European Court’s ruling in July.

On December 30, 2009, Fatullayev was charged with drug possession after prison guards said they discovered heroin in his cell. Fatullayev maintains that the drugs were planted in his clothes by the guards, and the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders have both concluded that the drug charge was fabricated. On July 6, 2010, Fatullayev was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for possession of drugs, a sentence 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. Human rights and press freedom organizations maintain that the charge and sentence are motivated by a desire to further penalize Fatullayev for his opinions.

In Azerbaijan, journalists are forced to carry out their work under persistent pressure from the authorities, resulting in a prominent climate of self-censorship. In recent years, there has been a dramatic deterioration in freedom of expression, and according to research by ARTICLE 19, Index on Censorship, and Reporters Without Borders, there are signs that these conditions are worsening as the November 2010 parliamentary elections approach.

Write A Letter

  • Urging the Azerbaijani authorities to comply with the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling to release Eynulla Fatullayev immediately and to grant him compensation for unfair trial.     
  • Calling for an end to the imprisonment and harassment of journalists in Azerbaijan for the practice of their right to freedom of expression.

Send Your Letter To

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

Please also send appeals to the diplomatic representatives for Azerbaijan in your country if possible.