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Azerbaijan20 October 2006

Two newspapers banned from covering former police officer’s trial

Reporters Without Borders today condemned a 16 October order banning reporters from two newspapers, Olaylar and Azadlig, from attending the trial of former police officer Haji Mamedov and members of the gang he allegedly ran, which is accused of carrying out at least 10 murders and kidnappings. A total of 26 people have been arrested in the case, half of them policemen.

“Olaylar and Azadlig are being censored,” the press freedom organisation said. “These newspapers have published stories about the gang, and their reporters have a right to attend the trial. We suspect this ban has come from the political authorities, who want the trial passed over in silence.”

The prosecutor asked the presiding judge on 15 October to ban the publication of any articles about the Mamedov gang trial on the grounds that “this could be used by witnesses in order to not say the truth.” Although the judge complied, several newspapers ran stories about the trial. The ban on attending the trial issued the next day concerned only Olaylar and Azadlig, however.

Mamedov is also supposed to be formally questioned about the March 2005 murder of Elmar Huseynov, the editor of the magazine Monitor. Mamedov has claimed responsibility for the murder and said he did it on the orders of former economy minister Farhad Aliyev. But national security ministry investigators have not so far accepted Mamedov’s claim, saying they believe Huseynov was murdered by two Azeris living in Georgia, Tahir Khubanov and Teymuraz Aliyev.

“We call on investigators not to rule out any possibilities in this case,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The possible involvement of the political authorities in this murder should be examined with greater attention.”

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