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Azerbaidjan5 September 2002

Journalists get death threats after denouncing Turkish border smuggling

Reporters Without Borders expressed concern today at death threats received by journalists on the Azerbaijani opposition daily Khurriyet, notably its editor Aydyn Guliyev, after the paper ran an article accusing a senior customs official of involvement in a petrol-smuggling racket.

"These threats must be taken seriously, since the editor’s appeal to the authorities for physical protection has gone unanswered," said the organisation’s secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to interior minister Ramil Usubov. "We support his request and urge you to do everything possible to ensure the safety of the paper’s journalists.

People who said they were friends of Mudariz Panakhov, the customs chief in Sadarak, on the border with Turkey, reportedly made death threats against Guliyev and other journalists on the paper, saying they blow up its offices if any more articles appeared. The paper had printed an article headed "Sadarak customs and the millions" on 30 August, reporting a $7 million annual petrol smuggling racket. Mystery vehicles crashed into the editor’s car on 3 September.

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