International PEN welcomes the release following a pardon by the Azerbaijani president of five journalists, including honorary member of  English PEN Rafiq Tagi, on December 28, 2007. However, PEN continues to call for the immediate and unconditional of the four journalists who remain detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

Background Information

Samir Sadagatoglu, Rafiq Tagi, Faramaz Allahverdiyev (Novruzoglu), and two other journalists were among 114 prisoners pardoned by presidential decree on December 28. The five journalists had been jailed in 2006 and 2007 on charges of libel, defamation, and inciting religious hatred. PEN welcomes the freedom granted to the five journalists but continues to call for the immediate release of Eynulla Fatullayev, Sakit Zakhidov (Mirza Sakit), Ganimat Zakhidov (Zahid), and Mushfig Huseynov.

Fatullayev, editor of independent Russian-language weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the Azeri-language daily Gundalik Azarbaycan, is detained on charges of defamation, terrorism, incitement to ethnic hatred, and tax evasion. Ganimat Zakhidov, editor of the prominent opposition daily Azadlig (Freedom), was placed in pretrial detention in November 2007 for "hooliganism." His brother Sakit Zakhidov is serving a three-year sentence on the false charge of drug possession. Huseynov was sentenced to three months' pretrial detention in July 2007 for allegedly accepting a bribe. This was extended in October and is due to expire on January 24, 2008.

The continued detention of four journalists indicates continued hostility toward independent and opposition media by the Azerbaijani authorities in a country where defamation and false charges are increasingly used to silence dissenting voices.

Write A Letter

  • welcoming the release of Samir Sadagatoglu, Rafiq Tagi, Farmeaz Novruzoglu, Rovshan Kebirli, and Yashar Agazadeh on December 28, 2007;
  • expressing disappointment that journalists Eynulla Fatullayev, Ganimat Zakhidov, and Sakit Zakhidov remain detained;
  • pointing out that their continued detention is in direct violation of their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under Article 19 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Azerbaijan is a signatory.

Send Your Letter To

President Ilham Aliyev
Office of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic
19 Istiqlaliyyat Street
Baku AZ1066
Azerbaijan
Fax: 00 994 12 492 0625
E-mail: president@gov.az
 
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

Please check with PEN if sending appeals after February 10, 2008: ftw [at] pen.org