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Eynulla Fətullayevə qarşı növbəti təxribatla bağlı
OSCE media freedom representative denounces 'new provocation' against jailed Azerbaijani journalist
VIENNA, 30 December 2009 - The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, condemned in strong terms today Azerbaijani officials' claims that jailed journalist Eynulla Fatullayev had been found in possession of drugs, calling the accusations another in a long series of provocations against independent-minded critics of the government.
Officials at the penitentiary colony No. 12, where Fatullayev is serving a combined ten-and-a-half-year jail sentence, said that 0.22 grams of heroin had been found on his sleeve and shoe during a search on 29 December. The detainee was then placed in a punishment cell and procedures were started against him.
The editor-in-chief of the now-defunct newspapers Realny Azerbaijan and Gündalik Azarbaycan, Fatullayev was sentenced in 2007 on charges of 'defamation of the nation', threat of terrorism and tax evasion, accusations that Haraszti at that time condemned as "a gross violation of OSCE commitments on press freedoms".
The European Court of Human Rights is reviewing Fatullayev's appeal against his 2007 sentence and a verdict is expected soon. If Fatullayev is charged with and convicted on new charges of drug possession, he could face an additional prison term of up to three years.
"I visited Eynulla Fatullayev twice in his high-security prison and find allegations of heroin smuggling or possession highly improbable," Haraszti said.
"This is a provocation aimed at pre-empting the European Court of Human Rights' expected verdict, and smearing Fatullayev's reputation in a country where the media hardly dare to question official news."
"This latest incident shows that Azerbaijani authorities are continuing their drive against dissenting voices," Haraszti added.
On 24 November this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists honoured Fatullayev with its annual International Press Freedom Award. Just this month the European Parliament condemned Azerbaijan for its oppression of the independent media.
"The Azerbaijani authorities routinely resort to provocations against independent media workers. Azerbaijan's famous satirical poet Mirza Sakit Zahidov was similiarly accused of drug possession in 2006, and as a result spent more than two years in jail. Azadlig editor Ganimat Zahidov and satirical bloggers Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli are also in jail on hooliganism charges that are widely seen as made up," Haraszti said.
"I call upon Azerbaijan to fully comply with OSCE media freedom commitments," Haraszti said.