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Azerbaijan 28 May 2009

Court breaks law by refusing to release journalist on health grounds

A Baku court yesterday rejected a request for the release of Mushfig Huseynov, a reporter with the daily Bizim Yol, who has had serious health problems since he was jailed in January 2008 for allegedly taking a bribe.

“Huseynov’s state of health is grounds for immediate release,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The law requires it. Prison conditions in Azerbaijan are appalling and do not allow detainees in a poor health to receive adequate medical attention. The judicial authorities must reconsider this decision.”

Article 78 of the criminal code and article 167 of the penal code provide for a detainee’s release on medical grounds. The court’s ruling nonetheless means that Huseynov will have to continue serving his sentence in a Baku prison.

Huseynov was sentenced to six years in prison on a corruption charge on 21 January 2008. He was alleged to have accepted a bribe of 3,500 dollars from an employee of the ministry of labour and social security.

Two other journalists are currently detained in Azerbaijan - Ganimat Zahidov of the opposition daily Azadlig and Eynulla Fatullayev, the editor of two dailies, Gundelik Azerbaijan and Realny Azerbaijan. Sakit Zahidov of Azadlig was freed on 9 April after being pardoned by President Ilham Aliev.

Azerbaijan was ranked 150th out of 173 countries in the 2008 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. President Aliev is also on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Predators of Press Freedom.”

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