Azerbaijan and the case of Eynulla Fatullayev

Protesters gathered in front of the Azerbaijani Embassy on 20 April to commemorate the anniversary of the imprisonment of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev in 2007, and to support the Azerbaijani citizens who were harassed and brought under custody during the opposition rally that took place on 9 and 17 April 2011, in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Human Rights Organisations report a rapid deterioration of media freedom in the country and the case of Eynulla Fatullayev ‘symbolises’ Ajerbaijan’s failure to secure freedom of expression as guaranteed in international and European law.  In 2007 Yasamal District Court in Baku convicted Fatullayev, a well-known editor and investigative journalist, for having committed “criminal libel”, “insult” and for inciting terrorism and other narcotic charges. The charges were based on his journalistic activities, articles published in a Azerbaijani newspaper and web postings, relating to the killing of Azerbaijani civilians in the Nagorno-Karabakh Region. Fatullayev was convicted and sentenced to eight and a half years in prison.

In an open letter to the Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan, Human Rights Watch asserted that the charges against the journalist were politically motivated: ‘the article was legitimate political commentary that should be fully protected under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights’- says Human Rights Watch.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) overturned these charges in April 2010, ruling that his imprisonment violated his rights to freedom of expression and his right to a fair trial- ordering his immediate release. The Azerbaijan Government contested the decision and Fatullayev remains in prison for what Article 19 deems ‘a new politically motivated charge of drug possession’.

In April 2011 the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyeve spoke out, addressing the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue in Baku,  saying that ‘his country can serve as an example to the world of national and religious tolerance’; but where is the tolerance for freedom of expression one may ask? Thorbjorn Yagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, expressed concern over the situation regarding freedom of expression and expressed his disappointment in Azjerbaijani authorities for not complying to the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev.

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