Solidarity with Mukhtarli as international concern grows for jailed journalist

by ECPMF staff
Europe's media freedom campaigners, gathered in Leipzig for the EPMCF ’Truth’ conferned, have worn bags on their heads in a symbolic act of solidarity with jailed journalist Afghan Mukhtarli.

Afghan Mukhtarli - action Europe's media freedom campaigners showing solidarity with jailed journalist Afghan Mukhtarli. (Photo: ECPMF/Andreas Lamm)

The action mirrors similar acts by Georgian journalists in the parliament and on TV. ECPMF’s protest shows sympathy with Mukhtarli, who was abducted and bundled into a car with a bag on his head. It happened near his home in the Georgian capital Tblisi, and he was driven to Baku in Azerbaijan where he has been sentenced to three months pre-trial detention.

’Clumsy and cartoonish’

“This kidnapping is clumsy and cowardly,” Giorgi Gogia, South Caucasus director at Human Rights Watch said. “No one for a minute will believe that Mukhtarli voluntarily tried to enter Azerbaijan, from where he fled to escape persecution. If Azerbaijani authorities have evidence of wrongdoing they could have pursued him through extradition. Instead, he was abducted by cartoonish gangsters.”

Human Rights Watch has said the Georgian government "shares responsibility for [Mukhtarli's] fate and should come clean about its role in his illegal detention and return [to Azerbaijan]".Azerbaijani law requires a person to show a valid passport before crossing the Azerbaijan-Georgia border, but Mukhtarli's passport remains in Tbilisi, said the HRW report.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Human Rights Director Michael Georg Link is calling for an inquiry.  “The allegations of the ill-treatment of Afgan Mukhtarli and the circumstances of his return to Azerbaijan should be thoroughly investigated to establish the facts of his case, and should be duly considered in judicial review,” the OSCE Director said in a statement. “Any identified abuses of power or criminal actions by law-enforcement authorities should be investigated, and anyone responsible for such actions should be held legally responsible,” the statement went on.

Chest pains

Link also expressed concern that Mukhtarli had mentioned to his lawyer that he has severe chest pains, possibly caused by broken ribs.

In Azerbaijan, MP Elnam Nasirov has commented in an interview on June 9th with the Azeri-language service of RFE/RL. that the arrest of Afgan Mukhtarli was a successful joint operation of the Georgian and Azerbaijani authorities. But the Georgian State Security Service has opened a criminal investigation into the kidnapping.