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Azerbaijan9 December 2008

Journalist brothers return to prison after compassionate leave

Despite their relatives’ appeals, journalists Ganimat Zahidov, the editor of the opposition daily Azadlig, and his brother, Azadlig reporter and poet Sakit Zahidov, were obliged to return to prison yesterday after four days of leave to spend time with the family following their father’s death.

“We are saddened by this news,” Reporters Without Borders said. “On the one hand it means that journalists who have no place in the company of criminals have been returned to prison and are deprived of their freedom. It also means the authorities missed an ideal opportunity to show an ability to favour press freedom and to tolerate those who criticise them.”

Reporters Without Borders wrote to President Ilham Aliev on 5 December pointing out that Gurban, the Festival of Sacrifice that was celebrated yesterday, “is a special moment when forgiveness is appropriate and this year it coincides with the date that Sakit and Ganimat Zahidov are supposed to return to prison.”

Appealing to the president to show clemency and release them, the letter said “such a highly symbolic gesture would be seen in a very positive light by the international community” and would help to improve Azerbaijan’s press freedom record.

The Zahidov brothers were given four days’ compassionate leave following their father’s death on 2 December. They had hoped to attend his funeral on 3 December, but the leave was not granted until the following day.

Ganimat Zahidov is serving a four-year sentence for “hooliganism “while his brother is serving a three-year sentence for “drug trafficking.” Prosecutors failed to produce evidence of their guilt at their trials.


05.12 : Zahidov brothers given four days’ leave from prison after death of father

Jailed journalists Ganimat Zahidov, the editor of the opposition daily Azadlig, and his brother, Azadlig reporter and poet Sakit Zahidov, were let out of prison on four days of leave yesterday so that they could spend time with the family following their father’s death on 2 December.

They requested permission to attend his funeral on 3 December, but permission was initially refused and the funeral went ahead in their absence. Permission was finally granted on the evening of 3 December and they left prison the next morning. They are required to return to prison on 8 December.

Ganimat Zahidov is serving a four-year sentence which he was given on 13 May 2008 on a charge of “aggravated hooliganism” under article 127.2.3 of the criminal code. His brother is serving a three-year sentence on a drug trafficking charge which he received on 4 October 2006.

Reporters Without Borders has repeatedly communicated its views on the press freedom situation in Azerbaijan to the government. The plight of the Zahidov brothers is not unique. Two other journalists are currently in prison in Azerbaijan. They are Eynulla Fatullayev (convicted on terrorism, tax evasion and libel charges) and Mushfig Huseynov (convicted on a corruption charge).




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