PEN International is pleased and relieved that the Azerbaijani court of appeal has at last freed the bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade. However, PEN continues to protest the inhumane treatment of Azerbaijani journalist Eynulla Fatullayev, who remains in prison despite a European Court of Human Rights’ ruling that he should be freed. PEN calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Eynulla Fatullayev, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Azerbaijan is a state party.

Background Information

According to PEN's information, Emin Milli, co-founder of the online Alumni Network organization and editor of the Internet television site, ANOT, was released on November 19, 2010. Adnan Hajizade, co-founder of the youth movement OL (To Be), was released on November 18, 2010. Together, the two men are more commonly known as the "Donkey Bloggers" due to a video they released that satirized the expensive importation of donkeys into Azerbaijan.

In 2009 Milli and Hajizade were arrested by police in Baku following a scuffle that the two men believe was deliberately set up to trap them. They received two-year and two-and-a-half-year prison sentences, respectively, on charges of "hooliganism" and "inflicting minor bodily harm." Human rights groups and press freedom organizations believe that these charges were fabricated and that the real reason for the writers' punishment was their Internet-published criticism of government corruption.

PEN and other international freedom of expression groups campaigned for the release of the two men.

Eynulla Fatullayev, the former editor of the now-defunct Russian language weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the Azeri language weekly Gündelike Azerbaijan, was sentenced on October 30, 2007, to eight and a half years in prison on charges of defamation, terrorism, incitement of ethnic hatred, and tax evasion. On July 6, 2010, Fatullayev was sentenced to a further two and a half years in prison on drug possession charges, brought while he was in prison. International human rights observers maintain that the charges were fabricated. PEN and other human rights monitors consider Fatullayev to be imprisoned because of his history of human rights reporting. At an appeal hearing in Baku on November 5, 2010, Fatullayev was made to sit in a cage and was denied appropriate access to his lawyer.

On April 22, 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Fatullayev’s 2007 convictions were contrary to his right to freedom of expression, as stated under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court said that Fatullayev should be released immediately and that he should be awarded US$33,400 compensation. As a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, Azerbaijan is required to comply with the ruling. The country's Supreme Court last week lifted some charges against Fatullayev, including defamation and instigating terrorism. But he remains in prison on the drug possession charges. On November 22 the appeals court upheld the drug possession conviction.

PEN and international human rights and press freedom groups have campaigned for Eynulla Fatullayev’s release.

Independent journalists and writers are regularly harassed by Azerbaijani authorities and live under threat of prosecution, imprisonment and violence. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Azerbaijan has the fifth highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world.

Although the Azerbaijani authorities make serious efforts to suppress independent journalism, they rarely prosecute and convict journalists and writers for offenses directly related to what they have published. Instead, writers are arrested and prosecuted on charges of incitement of hatred, tax evasion, hooliganism, or on spurious drug possession charges. The trials of journalists facing such charges do not meet international fair trial standards, and effectively silence critical reporting on the government.

Independent journalists also claim that violence against them, or the threat of violence, is commonplace, and that such attacks usually go unpunished.

Write A Letter

  • Welcoming the release of writers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade;
  • Urging the Azerbaijani authorities to comply with the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling to release Eynulla Fatullayev immediately and to grant him compensation for unfair trial;
  • Calling for an end to his humiliating treatment;
  • Calling for an end to the imprisonment and harassment of journalists in Azerbaijan solely for the practice of their right to 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 06 25

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