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Azerbaijan6 February 2009

Court rejects early release for jailed newspaper reporter

Baku appeal court judge Rizvan Safarov yesterday rejected a request for the conditional release of Azadlig reporter Sakit Zahidov. The request was submitted by his lawyer, Isakhan Ashurov, on 19 December on the grounds that Zahidov has served half of his three-year jail sentence and, under Azerbaijani law, qualifies for early release.

“We regret that the Azerbaijani judicial system did not seize this opportunity to release Zahidov and thereby right a wrong without losing face,” Reporters Without Borders said.

Zahidov has been detained since 23 June 2006, when he was arrested on trumped-up charges of possessing and using drugs, and his state of health is now a source of great concern. The sentence was imposed in October 2006.

Three other journalists are currently in prison in Azerbaijan - Ganimat Zahidov, the editor of Azadlig, Eynulla Fatullayev, the editor of Realny Azerbaijan and Gundelik Azerbaijan, and Mushfig Husseynov of Bizim Yol. Azerbaijan was ranked 150th out of 173 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

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