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Azerbaïdjan29 July 2005

Baku calls on Tbilisi to extradite two men in Elmar Huseynov murder case

Georgian authorities have refused a request from Azeri security services for the extradition of two Georgian nationals wanted in connection with the investigation into the 2 March 2005 murder of Elmar Huseynov, editor of the independent weekly Monitor.

Georgia’s prosecutor-general refused the 28 July extradition request for Tahir Khubanov and Teymuraz Aliyev on the grounds that its law does not allow a citizen to be handed over to the security services of a foreign country.

The official did however ask to see the file on the investigation into the murder, saying that if he considered there was sufficient evidence against the two they would be brought for trial before a court in Georgia.

Azeri prosecutor general Zakir Garalov said on the 27 June that the Huseynov murder investigation would be solved once the two suspects were arrested. Baku would then be able to release the name of the suspected instigator of the killing.

Azeri security services said on 4 May that Georgian national Tahir Khubanov, who is of Azeri origin, was the "number one suspect" and was being sought. An Azeri national of Georgian origin, living in Baku since 1990, Turgai Bairamov, aged 29, was on 22 April charged with being an accessory to the murder. He is currently in custody at the Baku state security prison awaiting trial.

"Solving the Huseynov case, the first murder of its type for many years, is a test for the Azeri president in the run-up to key legislative elections in November," said Reporters Without Borders.

4 March 2005 Murder of Elmar Husseynov: The authorities under the spotlight

More than 5,000 people turned out for Elmar Huseynov’s funeral in Baku on 4 March. The opposition, which has openly pointed the finger at the government, attended in large numbers. At a ceremony in tribute to the murdered editor at the Baku Academy of Sciences, Ali Kerimli, leader of the opposition Popular Front said, "Everyone knows how difficult it is to tell the truth in this country. We give the authorities two weeks to find the killers." European institutions have unanimously condemned the murder of the editor of the Monitor. Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis, said in a 3 March statement, "I am shocked by the brutal murder of Elmar Husseynov, which has all the hallmarks of a contract killing and I condemn it in the strongest terms". He appealed to the authorities in Azerbaijan to bring those responsible to justice. President Ilham Aliyev on 3 March denied any involvement by the authorities in the killing and condemned those "who set up this murder" who, he said were trying to "damage the image of Azerbaijan abroad."

3 March 2005 Call for independent enquiry into murder of Elmar Husseynov

Reporters Without Borders said today it was "shocked" by yesterday’s murder of Elmar Husseynov, editor of Azerbaijan’s opposition weekly Monitor, amid what it called a "campaign of violence" against the country’s journalists. It called on President Ilham Aliev to set up an independent enquiry to find the culprits.

Elmar Husseynov, the first journalist to be killed in Azerbaijan, was shot dead as he returned to his apartment in the capital, Baku, last night.

"This revolting and unjustified attack is the culmination of months of violence against the country’s journalists," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "Husseynov had been constantly hounded by the regime in recent years. We call on the authorities to end this wave of violence against the media at once and set up an independent enquiry to find the killers and masterminds in this crime."

The gunman fired at Husseynov seven times, including twice in the heart, as he entered his apartment. His father Sabir said the electricity and phone was cut off on the floor where the apartment was a few minutes before the murder and he heard a muffled sound. He then found his son’s body inside the apartment.

The local news agency Turan said one bullet was fired into Husseynov’s mouth, a punishment trademark of gangsters. A gun with a silencer was found 150 metres from the scene and experts were examining it. The national state prosecutor set up an enquiry into "brutal premeditated murder" and "illegal possession of a firearm" (under articles 120.2.4 and 228 of the criminal code).

The Russian-language Monitor (circulation 5,000) had printed many investigations into corruption and abuses of power by government members and President Ilham Aliev himself and the independent media said Husseynov was killed because of them.

"This latest act of repression against journalists is a warning by the regime to all of them, especially the opposition press," said a journalist in Baku who asked to remain anonymous.

Husseynov’s father told the French news agency Agence France-Presse he was sure "someone in the government" had ordered his son’s murder. "We’d been expecting it, but not right now."

Husseynov had mentioned to his friends that he had received any particular threats in recent days. He had just returned from a UN journalists course in Belgium.

The security services, the interior ministry and the state prosecutor’s office said today in a joint statement that President Aliev had ordered "a speedy resolution of the murder case and monitoring of the way the investigation is carried out." A commission of enquiry was set up and the police investigator in Nizami, Mair Muradov, said all leads were being followed up, including a possible link between the killing and Husseynov’s journalistic activities.

President Aliev’s press office called the murder "a serious provocation against the government and an attack on progress towards democracy in Azerbaijan, where the social and political situation is stable."

Husseynov had been constantly hounded by the authorities in recent years.

He was sentenced to six months in prison in 2001 for supposedly libelling Baku mayor Gajibala Abutalibov. He was also fined the equivalent of 10,000 euros on 29 July 2002 and ordered to print a retraction about an article criticising the army and objected to by defence minister Safar Abiyev.

On 4 April 2003, a court in Yasamal fined him the equivalent of 4,600 euros for libel and "insulting the honour and dignity" of a person (articles 147.2 and 148 of the criminal code). On 16 October that year, he was beaten by security police as he covered protests for Turan after presidential elections even though he was with a group of clearly-identified journalists.

A court in Nizami (Baku) ordered him to pay the equivalent of 15,000 euros on 18 January 2005 for libel or face criminal charges.

Monitor journalist Akper Hasanov was held by soldiers at Baku military headquarters on 2 February 2005 and forced him to confirm in writing that an article in the paper on 29 January called "If war breaks out tomorrow" was written by Husseynov.

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