International PEN welcomes the release of journalists Sakit Zakhidov and Ali Hasanov, who were both granted amnesty. PEN remains alarmed by the multiple attacks on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, and reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Azerbaijan is a state party.

Background Information

According to PEN’s information, poet, journalist, and satirist Sakit Zakhidov was released on April 9, 2009. Zakhidov, who worked for the newspaper Azadlygt, was first arrested on June 24, 2006, and sentenced on October 4, 2006, to three years’ imprisonment on drugs charges, which were widely considered to be falsified. During the trial, the Public Prosecutor told the court that there was no evidence that Zakhidov was selling drugs and asked that the charges be changed from drug dealing to drug use. However, he was given the maximum sentence possible. Zakhidov is known for his satirical poems that are said to be laced with obscenities, following a traditional format from the region of Azerbaijan where Zhakidov was born. One of his poems “What if we didn’t have him?” focused on the personality cult that surrounded the late Azeri President Heidar Aliyev. The poem contained comments that some analysts believed to be slanderous. In April 2008 Sakit Zakhidov received the Human Rights Watch administered Hellmann/Hammett award in recognition of his reporting in the face of persecution.
Ali Hasanov, editor-in-chief of the daily Ideal, was released on April 15, 2009. He was arrested and sentenced on November 14, 2008, to six months’ imprisonment on defamation charges. The case was filed by a Nagorno-Karabakh war veteran, who alleged that two articles published in Ideal in August 2008 harmed her honor and dignity. There are reports that the articles in question were written by a person who used a pseudonym. Hasanov was released after serving five months of his six month prison sentence.  
International PEN has been monitoring the cases of other writers and journalists imprisoned in Azerbaijan, notably Eynulla Fatullayev, Novruzali Mamedov and Ganimat Zakhidov, Sakit Zakhidov’s brother. PEN has continued recording threats and harassment against writers in Azerbaijan, and remains concerned for the safety and well being of reporters in the country.

Write A Letter

  • Welcoming the release of Sakit Zakhidov and Ali Hasanov;
  • Calling for an end to the imprisonment and harassment of journalists in Azerbaijan in the practice of their right to freedom of expression.

Send Your Letter To

Mr. Ilham Aliyev
President of Azerbaijan
The President Palace
Istiglaliyyat Street, 19
Baku City, AZ1066
Republic of  Azerbaijan
Fax: 00994 12 492 35 43, 492 06 25
Lt.-Gen. Ramil Usubov
Minister of Internal Affairs
Ministry of Internal Affairs                                 
7 Husu Hajiyev Street
Baku, 370005
Republic of Azerbaijan
Fax:  00994 12 492 45 90

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Azerbaijan in your country if possible.

Please check with PEN if sending appeals after May 20, 2009: ftw [at]