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Azerbaijan6 March 2006

Opposition journalist escapes murder attempt, one year after killing of Elmar Husseynov

Reporters Without Borders expressed “outrage” after a savage attack on opposition journalist Fikret Huseynli, of the daily Azadlig, who was kidnapped, tortured and left for dead in Baku on 5 March 2006.

The near fatal assault came as many in Azerbaijan had been paying tribute to Elmar Husseynov, murdered on 2 March 2005.

Huseynli was abducted, bound, had his fingers broken and stabbed in the neck. He survived and managed to get help but is now critically ill.

Two other journalists on the newspaper suffered previously similar attacks.

“We are outraged at the brutally of the methods used in a bid to intimidate opposition journalists,” said Reporters Without Borders. “This is not the first time that such violence has been used against a journalist in Azerbaijan and this case demonstrates the constant and worrying deterioration in press freedom in the country, one year after the, as yet unpunished, murder of Elmar Husseynov.

“We urge President Ilham Aliyev to make sure an investigation is opened to identify and punish those responsible for this assault”, it added.

Huseynli was attacked when he was reporting in the Badamdar district. He was struck several times in the back, until he lost consciousness. When he came to, he found he was in a Lada car, along with three men.

His abductors drove him to the edge of the city, near a former bus terminal and threw him out. They bound his hands and broke his fingers. One of the assailants then stabbed him in the neck. He collapsed and his assailants left him beside the road.

He recovered consciousness a few minutes later, raised the alarm and was taken to hospital. He underwent an operation but remains in a critical condition because of a heavy loss of blood. He is currently at home because his family feared leaving him in hospital where security forces could come to question him during the night.

He is very weak, can neither eat nor drink nor move around unaided.

Other journalists on the daily Azadlig were previously victims of similar attacks. On 26 February 2005, Ganimat Zahidov and Azer Ahmedov, respectively editor and technical editor of the daily, were abducted by unknown assailants in Baku, threatened, beaten up and humiliated. Their captors told them to stop publishing articles critical of President Ilham Aliyev and to stop reporting on rioting in the country’s prisons.

Azer Ahmedov told Reporters Without Borders he was convinced that the attack on his colleague was linked to his work and the newspaper suspects some members of the Azerbaijan authorities of having instigated this murder attempt.

Huseynli had received threatening phone calls last month. He was several times told to stop writing and to leave journalism. He had written a number of articles condemning corruption at high levels of Azerbaijan authority and the criminal activities of some oligarchs.

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