Azerbaijan7 January 2008
Five journalists freed by presidential decree
Reporters Without Borders welcomes a decree signed by President Ilham Aliyev on 28 December freeing 119 prisoners including five journalists - Samir Sadagatoglu, Rafik Tagi, Yashar Agazade, Rovshan Kabirli and Faramaz Allahverdiyev. Their release has also been hailed by Miklos Haraszti, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s representative on freedom of the media, who has nonetheless pointed out that Azerbaijan still has laws restricting press freedom.
“While welcoming this decision we must stress that three journalists are still detained in Azerbaijan and we call for their immediate release,” Reporters Without Borders said. Those still held are Realny Azerbaijan editor Eynulla Fatullayev, the poet and journalist Sakit Zahidov, and his brother, Azadlig editor Ganimat Zahidov.
Sadagatoglu, the editor of the weekly Sanat, and Tagi, one of his journalists, were convicted of “inciting racial, national and religious hatred” under article 283.1 of the criminal code in an article critical of Islam, entitled “Europe and Us,” that was published on 6 November 2006. Sadagatoglu was sentenced to four years in prison, and Tagi to three years. A Baku appeal court confirmed these sentences on 6 July 2007.
Agazade and Kabirli, who worked for the daily Mukhalifat, were serving 30-month prison sentences for libelling the president’s uncle, Djalal Aliyev, in an article about his alleged corruption.
Allahverdiyev, who was arrested on 30 January 2007, was serving a two-year sentence for libelling interior minister Ramil Usubov in a story about his alleged lack of loyalty to former President Heydar Aliyev. He sowed up his mouth and went on hunger strike in July 2007.