International PEN is deeply concerned by news that imprisoned editor Eynulla Fatullayev was charged with drug possession on December 31, 2009. Fatullayev is currently serving an eight-and-a-half-year prison sentence on political charges and he faces a further three-year prison term if found guilty of having narcotics in prison. Since his arrest in 2007, PEN has been calling for the release of Eynulla Fatullayev and it shares concerns with other human rights monitors that the new charges against him may have been fabricated.

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 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, which argued that the Azerbaijani support of United States foreign policy would make them more likely to be attacked by Iran. 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 since April 2007 at Prison #12 in Baku 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 fifteen-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 another three years. No date has been set for the trial. Fatullayev denied being in possession of the drug and claims it was planted on him. In an alert dated January 4, 2010, 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.

Later in January 2010, Fatullayev’s case will come for consideration before the European Court on Human Rights for unjust prosecution for his previous convictions. Fatullayev’s father fears that this new drug charge will ensure his son will remain imprisoned regardless of the decision of the European Court.

The continued detention and conviction of Eynulla Fatullayev and other writers and journalists indicates the persistent hostility towards 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

  • Expressing concern about the new drug possession charges against Eynulla Fatullayev, and demanding 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 the 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
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 contact PEN if sending appeals after February 20, 2010: ftw [at]