VIENNA/WARSAW (OSCE)—Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, and Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), on Monday condemned the sentencing of Azerbaijani blogger and chair of the media NGO Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety Mehman Huseynov and called on authorities to release him.
On March 3, Huseynov was sentenced by the court in Baku to two years in prison on defamation charges. The case stems from Huseynov’s detention by police on January 9. Following the detention, the blogger claimed he had been subjected to torture. The chief of the district police then filed a suit based on Huseynov’s claims, resulting in the charges.
“I call on the authorities to release Mehman Huseynov,” Mijatović said. “I am hopeful that this decision will be overturned in the appeals process.”
Mehman Huseynov is the brother of Emin Huseynov, a prominent freedom of expression advocate, who was forced to flee the country in 2015 (see http://www.osce.org/fom/122481).
“Any allegations or reports of torture or other ill-treatment should be promptly and thoroughly investigated by the relevant authorities. The court’s decision in this case is cause for concern,” ODIHR Director Link said.
Mijatović reiterated her call that authorities fulfill their longstanding promise to decriminalize defamation in Azerbaijan. She has repeatedly addressed the issue.
The Council of Europe’s platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists on Tuesday released a statement issuing a Level 1 alert of Israeli-Russian Blogger Aleksandr Lapshin’s trial in Azerbaijan.
“Aleksandr Lapshin, an Israeli-Russian travel blogger, was detained in Minsk, Belarus, on 15 December 2016, at the request from Azerbaijan and extradited to Baku on 7 February 2017.
Lapshin faces a maximum sentence of eight years in prison on charges of illegally crossing Azerbaijan’s state borders during his April 2011, October 2012, and June 2016 visits to Nagorno-Karabakh, and for making ‘anti-state calls to the public’ and criticizing Azerbaijani policies.
Currently, Alexander Lapshin is in the Kurdakhani Pre-trial Detention Centre of the Baku Investigative Prison Nr 1.”