Eynulla Fatullayev, a journalist who has been in prison on political charges since April 2007, has been held in isolation since December 31, 2009—a two-month detention order that has been extended twice. Fatullayev wrote in a letter from prison that he fears for his life. He was moved to the Baku Investigative Prison where he is being held incommunicado after heroin was allegedly found in his possession. Fatullayev claims that the drug was planted on him, and refers in his appeal to allegations that the death six years ago of a woman who testified against criminal activity within the government had been murdered and her death disguised as an overdose. He fears that he may meet the same fate. PEN believes Fatullayev is being detained solely for his writings critical of Azerbaijani human rights and foreign policy. It is calling for his release.

Background Information

Eynulla Fatullayev, editor of the Russian language weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the Azeri language weekly Gündelike Azerbaijan, was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison on charges of defamation, terrorism, incitement of ethnic hatred and tax evasion. International PEN and other human rights monitors consider him to be imprisoned because of his history of human rights reporting, including an article he published in his newspaper that argued that the Azerbaijani support of United States foreign policy would make an attack on Azerbaijan by Iran more likely. The sentence also encompassed charges of tax evasion. At the time of the sentencing in October 2007, Fatullayev was already serving a sentence of two and a half years on charges of libel and insult for an article that he denied writing. Fatullayev has a history of challenging the Azerbaijani authorities and many believe the charges are another way of silencing him.

Fatullayev had been serving his sentence at Prison #12 in Baku from April 2007 until December 30, 2009, when guards allegedly found 0.22 grams of heroin in his prison cell. On December 31 he was taken to the Garadag District Court, where, after a 15-minute hearing, a judge ordered that for the next two months he should be held in an isolation cell while he awaits trial on drug possession charges. If found guilty, Fatullayev could be imprisoned for  three more years. On March 1, this detention order was extended for a another two months, until April 30. The Committee to Protect Journalists refers to past cases where criminal charges, including those related to narcotics, have been used against political dissidents as a means of penalizing them for their activism.

On March 3, 2009, it was reported that Fatullayev had sent an appeal from prison, addressed to the Azerbaijani Internal Affairs Ministry, the head of the prison services, and international human rights groups saying that he fears there may be a plot to assassinate him under the pretext of a drug overdose. In his appeal, he refers to the case of Rena Nasibova, a witness in an investigation of an alleged criminal gang said to be active within the Ministry of the Interior. She was found dead in July 2004. Initial claims that she was a drug addict and had died of an overdose were later found to be false. Instead, she died of suffocation, a murder linked to her role in the criminal investigation.

On February 25, 2010, Peter Semneby, the European Union’s Special Representative for the South Caucasus, alongside other diplomats, visited Fatullayev in prison, telling him that they had made several appeals for his release to the Azerbaijani authorities. The Council of Europe's High Commissioner on Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, also visited him in prison on March 4. Despite these high level representations, Fatullayev remains detained.

Write A Letter

  • Expressing concern about the new drug possession charges against Eynulla Fatullayev, and demanding that he is tried fairly and impartially;
  • Pointing out that the eight-and-a-half-year sentence against Fatullayev was handed down for his legitimate activities as a reporter, and that he should be immediately and unconditionally released in accordance with Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Azerbaijan is a state party;
  • Calling on the Azerbaijani authorities to take urgent measures to ensure the safety of journalists and 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 a copy of your appeal to the diplomatic representative for Azerbaijan in your country if possible.

Please check with PEN if sending appeals after April 20, 2010: ftw [at] pen.org