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Azerbaijan20 May 2008

Threatened journalist files complaint about travel ban

Reporters Without Borders supports Azadlig newspaper reporter Agil Khalil’s decision to lodge a complaint against the border police and the public prosecutor’s office on 16 May for preventing him from leaving Azerbaijan although he has been the target of repeated physical attacks there.

“It is unacceptable that the authorities fail to protect Khalil and then prevent him from leaving the country, thereby deliberately putting his life in danger,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call on the government to ensure that his freedom of movement is immediately restored. Khalil is a victim and the authorities should stop treating him like a public enemy.”

Khalil filed a complaint with the Nasimin district court in Baku demanding restoration of the right to leave the country and payment of compensation on the grounds that it was illegal to ban him from leaving.

His lawyer, Elchin Sadygov, said he did not known if the court had already begun to examine the complaint. He said Khalil was prevented from boarding a flight from Baku to Istanbul on 10 May and was prevented from crossing the land border between western Azerbaijan and Georgia twice the next day.

“The position of the border police, which was dictated by the prosecutor’s office, is illegal,” Sadygov said.

Reporters Without Borders wrote to President Ilham Aliyev on 15 May asking him to guarantee Khalil’s security and to allow Khalil to leave the country temporarily as a protective measure.

15.05 - President Aliyev asked to put a stop to violence against newspaper reporter

Reporters Without Borders wrote today to President Ilham Aliyev voicing deep concern about a series of physical attacks on journalist Agil Khalil of the daily newspaper Azadlig since 22 February, asking him to intervene to put a stop to them “before they end in tragedy.”

Khalil was attacked and beaten by several men employed by the national security ministry on 22 February. He was stabbed as he was returning home on 13 March. Someone tried to push him in front of an underground train on 7 May. And he has been the target of attempts to discredit and intimidate him.

The letter also voiced concern about an order forbidding Khalil from leaving the country and an official warning yesterday that, if he did not respond of his own accord to summonses for questioning by the police, he would be made to do so by force.

It is hard to understand why Khalil, the victim of several serious physical attacks, is being treated as “a public enemy,” the letter said.

Referring to the “shocking” murder of journalist Elmar Husseynov in 2005, Reporters Without Borders said it feared Khalil could be the next journalist to meet a tragic end. “If this were to happen, we would hold the Azerbaijani authorities responsible,” the organisation wrote.

The letter concluded by urging President Aliyev to use his prerogatives “to ensure that the harassment of Khalil is stopped and his security is no longer threatened” and that the national security ministry employees involved in the 22 February attack are “the subject of a criminal investigation and are suspended for as long as the investigation continues.”

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Open letter to Ilham Aliyev



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