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Azerbaijan20 June 2008

Press freedom activist hospitalised since being mistreated in Baku police station

Reporters Without Borders condemns the physical and psychological mistreatment that journalist Emin Huseynov, the head of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), received at the hands of the police in a Baku police station on 14 June after being arrested while covering an event marking the 80th anniversary of the birth of Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara.

He lost consciousness after leaving the police station and was hospitalised in a disturbing condition. The authorities deny that he was mistreated.

“We extend our full support to Huseynov and we deplore the attitude of the authorities who, despite all the evidence, insist that he was not mistreated,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge the judicial authorities to carry out an investigation and to ensure that Huseynov receives appropriate medical treatment.”

Huseynov and two IRFS researchers, Rasim Aliyev and Mirrehim Hasanov, went to cover the activity organised by the Che Guevara Fan Club in Baku’s Alaturka café. The participants and journalists were waiting for a Cuban embassy representative to arrive when the police raided the café, arrested around 20 of the 25 people present, and took them to a police station.

Huseynov was separated from the others at the police station when he objected to their being photographed and fingerprinted. Aliyev said he saw four plain-clothes police take Huseynov off to a room and then he heard cries, insults and other noises from the other side of the door. One of the men threatened to kill Huseynov. Then Huseynov left the police station and lost consciousness after asking a colleague to call an ambulance.

Reporters Without Borders learned today that Huseynov is still hospitalised but is not getting appropriate treatment for the pain he is suffering in the head and the back of the neck because doctors only diagnosed shock.

Ehsan Zahidov, an interior ministry representative insisted that Huseynov was not subjected to any violence in the police station. The police have claimed that he hit himself. “The conclusions of the police are absurd,” Huseynov said. “This is a favourite method of our police. When police hit journalist Uzeir Jafarov on the head last year, they claimed that he hit himself.”

Huseynov was previously arrested for two hours while covering a protest outside the presidential administration buildings on 12 June.

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