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Azerbaijan19 October 2007

Nakhchivan authorities harass opposition journalist’s family

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the constant harassment of journalist Hakim Eldostu Mehdiyev’s family by local authorities in the autonomous republic of Nakhchivan since his detention for five days last month. Mehdiyev is regional correspondent for the Baku-based opposition newspaper Yeni Musavat.

“Mehdiyev’s relatives have been threatened with reprisals and have been subjected to repeated intimidation by the security forces,” the press freedom organisation said. “We support his appeal to President Ilham Aliev for guarantees for his and his family’s safety.”

Since his arrest on 23 September, his brother’s tea room has been demolished and family members has been warned they could be beaten or kidnapped if they complained to international organisations. Mehdiyev is meanwhile now banned from leaving Nakhchivan, which is separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by a strip of Armenian territory.

Exasperated by all the harassment, Mehdiyev has written to President Aliev and to Nakhchivan’s leaders saying he will be forced to leave the country and request political asylum abroad if he and his family are not given guarantees of security.

Mehdiyev’s ordeal began on 22 September, when he was forced into a car by national security ministry agents and was held all day in a ministry building where, according to Reporters Without Borders’ sources, he was beaten because of his reports about gas and electricity problems in the region.

After his release, he only had a few hours to warn his family and try unsuccessfully to see a doctor about his injuries before a court had him arrested the next day and sentenced him to 15 days in prison for “resisting the police at the time of his arrest.”

Mehdiyev was released on 27 September after several international organisations including Reporters Without Borders interceded on his behalf. He currently needs treatment for his injuries and is unable to work.

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