International PEN is seriously concerned for the well-being of dissident poet Sakit Mirza Zakhidov following reports that he was taken out of a prison medical center prematurely and was assaulted upon his return to Penitentiary #14 in Baku, where he is serving a three-year sentence. PEN calls for these allegations to be fully and independently investigated, seeks assurances of Sakit Mirza Zakhidov’s well-being, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release if imprisoned in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Azerbaijan is a signatory.

Background Information

According to PEN’s information, Sakit Mirza Zakhidov was receiving treatment for long-standing heart disease at the Justice Ministry Penitentiary Services’ Treatment Facility until October 18, 2008, when he was returned to Prison #14 without having finished his treatment. Rena Zahidova, Zakhidov’s wife, reported that he was also beaten in the kidneys and stomach by the management chief and his colleagues. On October 27, delegates from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Norwegian, French and U.S. embassies went to the prison where a closed meeting was held with Zakhidov, who, according to reports, said that although his condition has improved, he remains unwell. 
The assault against Sakit Mirza Zakhidov may be linked to the publication of his poem “Ilhamla Ireli” (Forward with Ilham), written in prison and published in the pro-opposition newspaper Azadlig on October 15, 2008—the day of the Azerbaijani presidential election.
On October 4, 2006, Sakit Mirza Zakhidov, journalist and satirist for the newspaper Azadlyg, as well as a poet, was sentenced to three years in prison on drug charges, which are widely considered to be fabricated. Zahidov’s brother, Ganimat Zakhidov, the editor of Azadlyq, was also imprisoned after being sentenced to four years in prison for “hooliganism and intentional inflicting of bodily harm.” Ganimat Zakhidov regarded his conviction as retaliation for his writings, which are critical of President Aliyev and his associates.

More information:

Opposition Poet's Arrest Raises Media Concerns
Free expression in Azerbaijan

Write A Letter

  • Expressing serious concern over reports that Sakit Mirza Zakhidov was assaulted when transferred from the prison medical center,  urging that this assault is fully and independently investigated;
  • Seeking assurances of Sakit Mirza Zakhidov’s well-being, and calling for his immediate and unconditional release if held in violation of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Azerbaijan is a party.
  • 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.

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