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Azerbaijan4 January 2007

Reporter with opposition daily beaten and stabbed outside his home

Reporters Without Borders today condemned a brutal attack on Nijat Huseynov of the leading opposition daily Azadlig, who was beaten and stabbed by four assailants as he was leaving his home to go to work in Baku on 25 December. He had recently received anonymous telephone threats about his reporting.

“In Azerbaijan, relations between journalists and those they investigate too often end in violence,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Two other journalists, Bahaddin Khaziyev and Fikret Huseynli, survived murder attempts in 2006, while Elmar Huseynov, the editor of the magazine Monitor, was gunned down in 2005.”

The press freedom organisation added: “The fact that the attack on Nijat Huseynov took place in broad daylight and his assailants did not bother to cover their faces underscores the feeling of impunity of those who target journalists. We call on President Ilham Alliev to deal with this problem at once. There can be no democracy in a country where the media live under the constant threat of physical reprisals.”

The attack on Huseynov took place the day after he returned from a two-week trip. He told the police he recognised one of his assailants, having previously noticed him several times as he was going about the city. He also said he had recently received anonymous phone calls threatening him with “punishment for his bad articles.”

Huseynov appears to have been ambushed. Two of his assailants approached him from behind and began punching and kicking him. They were joined by two others who stabbed him several times. When a neighbour who witnessed the attack began calling for help, they all ran off and jumped into a taxi parked nearby. Huseynov was taken to Musa Nagiyev hospital, where he was treated for cranial traumatism and stomach injuries.

The head of the police unit that is investigating the case, Elman Guliev, claimed on 27 December that no one witnessed the attack. Huseynov’s jacket, which bears the marks of the stabbing and the finger-prints of some of the assailants, has still not been registered as evidence by the police. Huseynov has meanwhile requested police protection for himself and his family.

Huseynov has worked for Azadlig for two years, writing about corruption and misconduct by government officials.

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