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Azerbaijan6 January 2004

Three months remand in custody for an opposition journalist

Reporters Without Borders expressed serious concern that an opposition journalist has been remanded in custody for three months. Sadig Ismailov of the opposition daily Baki Khaber is accused of taking part in clashes in Baku pitting opposition activists against security forces after the 15 October 2003 presidential elections. His editor in chief, Aydin Gouliev, said that Ismailov had been sent to cover the demonstrations at Azadliq Square on 16 October.

The international press freedom organisation, which can see no justification for remanding him in custody, and moreover for such a long period, has asked for an explanation from interior minister, Ramil Usubov and the general prosecutor, Zakir Garalov.

Ismailov was arrested in Baku on 30 December under Articles 220.1 (disturbing the peace) and 315 (refusal to comply) of the criminal code. On 31 December, the Nasimi regional court decided to remand the journalist in custody for three months, during the period of the investigation. Ismailov is being held at Bailov prison in Baku. He risks seven years in jail.

Another journalist, Rauf Arifoglu, editor in chief of the opposition daily Yeni Musavat, has been detained since 27 October 2003 and accused of organising demonstrations on 15 and 16 October. Reporters Without Borders has also called for his release.

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