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04.12.2017

British MPs back Afgan Mukhtarli

by Andy McSmith in London

The plight of the imprisoned Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli has been raised in the UK Parliament.

Sir Peter Bottomley MP Sir Peter Bottomley MP. Photo: House of Commons

One of Britain’s most senior law makers moved into action on the day after Mr Mukhtarli made his first court appearance in Azerbaijan on 30th November. He has been in prison for five months since he was abducted on the streets of Tbilisi, in Georgia, on 29th May..

Sir Peter Bottomley, a long serving Conservative MP, has called on the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, to speak to the Azerbaijan authorities, insisting that Mr Mukhtarli should be treated humanely, and reminding them that they are signatories of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Sir Peter made the request public through a device known as an Early Day Motion, which was published on Parliament’s official website on 2 December, and was printed in the official bundle of papers awaiting MPs as they returned to the Commons on Monday morning, two days later.

It will have been seen, too, by officials in the Foreign Affairs Committee, and will carry weight because Sir Peter has served as a minister in previous Conservative governments, and because his 32 years in Parliament makes him one of the UK’s half dozen longest-serving MPs. Recently, he has campaigned against the current wave of arrests of journalists in Turkey.

The full text of his Early Day Motion, numbered 624, says “this House notes the accession of Azerbaijan to the European Convention on Human Rights; asks the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to express to the Government and representatives of Azerbaijan concern for the fair treatment of the investigative journalist Afghan Mukhtarli, husband of fellow Azerbaijani journalist Leyla Mustafayeva, who was reported to have been kidnapped in Tbilisi on 29 May 2017 before being taken forcibly across the border and appearing on 30 November 2017 at the Balakan District Court with a trial starting on 14 December 2017 on charges that are not generally known; and further asks the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to advise the Azerbaijani Government that the role of journalism should be respected and that fears of reports of wrongdoing within government should not lead to persecution of the messengers.”

It is not known yet what the government’s case against Afghan Mukhtarli is – but the motive for kidnapping and imprisoning him is obviously that he crossed some very powerful people by investigating corruption in Azerbaijan’s defence ministry. This case has all the marks of an attempt to silence one journalist, and intimidate others. His trial will be carefully watched.





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