European Parliament calls on Baku to release abducted journalist

By bne IntelliNews June 16, 2017

The European Parliament on June 15 adopted a resolution calling on Azerbaijani authorities to release jailed journalist Afgan Mukhtarli immediately and to drop the "bogus charges" against him.

Mukhtarli, who fled Azerbaijan for Georgia in 2015, was abducted in Tbilisi on May 29 and resurfaced in an Azerbaijani jail the next day. He has been placed in a three-month pre-trial detention and is charged with crossing the border without identification and with $10,000 in cash on his person. He claims he was kidnapped when he stepped outside to buy bread, and that he had neither his passport, nor $10,000 on him.

His case has drawn an avalanche of international criticism against not only Azerbaijan, but also neighbouring Georgia, which is considered to be more democratic than the notoriously dictatorial regime of President Ilham Aliyev in Baku. European politicians, human rights advocates, the Georgian president and the Georgian civil society have expressed their shock at how the journalist was treated. The Georgian secret service is suspected of being involved in Mukhtarli's abduction.

In its resolution, the European Parliament also called on Georgia to swiftly and transparently investigate the incident and said that this is yet another example of Azerbaijani authorities targeting and persecuting critics living in exile and their relatives at home.

On the same day, a letter co-authored by 200 journalists from 16 countries called on Baku to release Mukhtarli without delay. "We decry the intensification of the Azerbaijan regime's war against its dissidents, manifested by this unprecedented cross-border attack," the letter said.

Journalists from France, the UK, the US, Poland, Estonia, the Baltic countries, Tajikistan and Russia, among others, said that they were "sure that the partners of Azerbaiajn and Georgia in the West will disgrace themselves if they ignore this outrageous attack on freedom of expression". 

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