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Azerbaijan26 May 2008

Prosecutors drop probe into attack by national security employees on newspaper reporter

A decision by the Azerbaijani authorities to withdraw charges against two national security ministry employees who allegedly attacked reporter Agil Khalil of the newspaper Azadlig on 22 February and to close the investigation into the case was “deplorable,” Reporters Without Borders said today.

“It is unfortunate that the public prosecutor’s office is turning a deaf ear to the international community’s appeals,” the press freedom organisation said. “Dropping charges against two officials accused of attacking a journalist and claiming that the victim made it all up is not likely to restore confidence in the judicial system’s independence.”

The public prosecutor’s office announced on 21 May that it had decided not to prosecute Dagbei Allahverdiyev and Akif Chovdarov, the two national security ministry employees who were accused of attacking Khalil moments after he took photos of them conducing an irregular transaction in an olive grove.

The two officials denied hitting him and gave a different account of the incident that was accepted by the prosecutor’s office. They said they refused to let themselves be photographed and, when they demanded Khalil’s camera, he threw himself to the ground and began to shout.

A judicial investigation into a 13 March attack in which Khalil was stabbed is still under way.

The prosecutor’s comments were condemned by Khalil and his lawyer, Elchin Sadigov, who described them as “mendacious.” Sadigov said he had pictures of the 22 February attack. Video footage of the attack and other aspects of the case is available on YouTube.

Video of the 22 February attack :

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