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Azerbaijan18 May 2005

Murder of Elmar Huseynov : The investigation should not stop at finding the killers

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Reporters Without Borders released an investigation report showing that the murder of Elmar Huseynov, editor of the independent weekly Monitor was a contract killing ordered because of his work as a journalist

The organisation, which was in the capital Baku from 6-9 April, met head of state, Ilham Aliyev, interior minister, Ramil Usubov, deputy prosecutor-general Ramiz Rzayev, as well as the wife, colleagues and lawyer of the murdered journalist. It also spoke to editors of the main independent and opposition newspapers, the Norwegian and French ambassadors and the representative of the Council of Europe.

The only two leads now being followed by the authorities are that the 2 March 2005 murder was linked to Huseynov’s work and that it was instigated from abroad, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

"The official investigation, aided by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Turkish police, is procedurally satisfactory. The head of state expressed his desire for light to be shed on this atrocious crime as rapidly as possible", said Robert Ménard, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders.

"We expect the authorities to punish all the guilty parties, that is to say the killers but also the instigators of this murder", he said.

An Azeri citizen of Georgian origin, Turgai Bairamov, aged 29, was charged in connection with the murder on 22 April. He had been living in Baku since 1990. Security services said on 4 May that the "number one suspect" was a Georgian citizen, Tahir Khubanov, whom they were now looking for.

The solving of the Huseynov case, the first murder of its type for many years, represents a test for the Azeri president in the run-up to key legislative elections in November. Since President Aliyev came to power, on 31 October 2003, journalists have experienced a persistent and disturbing decline in the state of press freedom in the country. No fewer than eight journalists have been arrested since January 2004 and six have been briefly detained and threatened.

Among its recommendations, Reporters Without Borders calls on the head of state to provide protection for journalists who ask for it, so that such a tragedy will not happen again.

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