Bergen, 12. January 2010
Office of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic
19 Istiqlaliyyat Street
Fax: + 994 12 492 0625
Minister of Internal Affairs
Lt.-Gen. Ramil Usubov
Ministry of Internal Affairs
Husu Hajiyev Street 7, 370005 Baku
Fax: + 994 12 492 45 90
As a member of Writers in Prison Committee, Norwegian PEN, I express concern about the new drug possession charges against imprisoned editor Eynulla Fatullayev.
Eynulla Fatullayev, editor of Russian language weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the Azeri language weekly Gündelike Azerbaijan, was sentenced to eight and a half years on charges of defamation, terrorism, incitement ethnic hatred and tax evasion.
International PEN and other human rights monitors consider him to be imprisoned because of his history of human rights reporting, an article he published in his newspaper, which argued that the Azeri support of United States foreign policy would make them more likely to be attacked by Iran. The sentence also encompassed charges of tax evasion. At the time of the sentencing in October 2007 Fatullayev was already serving a sentence of two and a half years on charges of libel and insult for an article which he denied writing. Fatullayev has a history of challenging the Azeri authorities and many believe the charges are another way of silencing him.
In an alert dated 4 January 2010, the Committee to Protect Journalists refers to past cases where criminal charges, including those related to narcotics, have been used against political dissidents as a means of penalising them for their activism.
We believe that editor Eynulla Fatullayev are detained solely for his legitimate activities as a reporter, and I call for immediate and unconditional release of Eynulla Fatullayev in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Azerbaijan is a state party.
I also seek your assurance, Your Excellencies, for calling on the Azeri authorities to take urgent measures to ensure the safety of journalists and freedom of expression.
Confident that you, Your Excellencies, will take action accordingly, I remain,
Writers in Prison Committee