Azerbaijan9 April 2009
Mirza Sakit Zahidov finally released
Reporters Without Borders hails the release of Mirza Sakit Zahidov, a satirical poet and journalist employed by the opposition daily Azadlig, who received a pardon today from President Ilham Aliev.
“This is great news,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is a significant development for press freedom in Azerbaijan, a country ruled by President Aliev with an iron hand. We share the joy of Zahidov’s family, lawyers and support committee, who had been awaiting his release since last month, and we urge the authorities to free the three other journalists still in prison. They include Zahidov’s elder brother Ganimat, who was given a four-year sentence in March 2008.”
Arrested on 23 June 2006 on a drug charge for which no evidence was ever produced, Sakit Zahidov was transferred to a run-down prison far from Baku in August 2006, before his trial. Despite suffering from heart and stomach ailments, he went on hunger strike in protest, which had a very disturbing impact on his state of health. He was sentenced to three years in prison in October 2006.
The three other journalists still in prison are Ganimat Zahidov of Azadlig, Eynulla Fatullaiev 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. President Aliev is on the organisation’s list of “Predators of Press Freedom.”