Azerbaijan11 December 2007
Reporter gets one-year suspended sentence on appeal
Journalist Ilgar Nasibov was given a one-year suspended sentence in a closed-door hearing by a Nakhchivan City appeal court yesterday, four days after a court sentenced to three months in prison for allegedly defaming a senior police officer and the rector of the Nakhchivan state university. Nasibov had reported that the rector was aware that a Kurdish students group had been formed within the university.
7.12 : Arrest in western province brings number of journalists detained to ten
Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the arrest and summary trial yesterday of Ilgar Nasibov, the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s correspondent in the western region of Nakhchivan. A court in Nakhchivan City sentenced him to three months in prison under article 147.1 of the criminal code for allegedly defaming police chief Sabuhi Novruzov.
Nasibov went to the court yesterday in response to a summons to sign documents, and was unaware the police chief was bringing a complaint against him. The trial went ahead although he was not represented by a lawyer.
“Convicted of defamation after a verbal exchange with a police chief, Nasibov was the victim of a very unfair fight,” Reporters Without Borders said. “His arrest brings the number of journalists detained in Azerbaijan to ten. This campaign of harassment of the opposition press is unacceptable. The procedures used to imprison Nasibov were utterly illegal. Justice requires that he be freed at once.”
RFE/RL said in a press release it was not known where the authorities took Nasibov after the trial. The exchange of words between him and the police chief occurred in a market on 4 December. The police chief insulted him, told him his work was disruptive and accused him of spreading false information about events in Nakhchivan. Nasibov responded by writing a letter to President Ilham Aliyev complaining about the way the authorities treated him.
Calling for Nasibov’s immediate release, RFE/RL president Jeff Gedmin said his imprisonment was a “complete mockery of due process which violates Azerbaijan’s own lawful, judicial procedure.” He said the Nakhchivan authorities had been harassing Nasibov and his wife, Malahat Nasibov, who also works for RFE/RL, and bringing false accusations against them for the past year.
The police also searched Nasibov’s home yesterday, removing his computer and files. The search was the result of a separate complaint by a parliamentarian, Isa Habbibbeyli, who claimed that Nasibov’s computer contained articles defaming him.
Nakhchivan is a lawless territory for journalists, who are often the victims of abuse by the police and other local authorities there. Nasibov’s imprisonment comes amid steadily mounting pressure on the independent press throughout Azerbaijan, which was ranked 139th out of 169 countries in the Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index.