New York, September 5, 2000 — In a widening crackdown on local media, Azeri authorities called in a second editor for questioning in connection with recent attempted hijacking in the Azeri enclave of Nakhchivan.
Gunduz Tahirli, editor of the newspaper Azadlyg, the country’s leading independent daily, was questioned for almost three hours yesterday at the prosecutor general’s office, according to local and international news reports. Further details are unavailable, since the investigators obliged Tahirli to sign an affidavit promising not to disclose any information about the interview. “I can only say that my visit to the prosecutor’s office was connected to the arrest of Rauf Arifoglu and the attempted plane hijacking,” Tahirli told the Baku daily Zerkalo.
Arifoglu, editor of the opposition daily Yeni Musavat, was arrested on August 22. After a week in solitary confinement at the Ministry for National Security, he was formally charged with illegal possession of arms, terrorism, and organizing an attempted hijacking. [In a recent news alert, CPJ called the charges “absurd” and demanded Arifoglu’s immediate release.]
The charges resulted from Yeni Musavat‘s coverage of an attempted airplane hijacking in Nakhchivan, an Azeri enclave located between Armenia and Turkey.
On September 3, Arifoglu responded to entreaties from his family and colleagues by ending the hunger strike that he had launched the day charges were pressed against him. The editor suffers from a duodenal ulcer, but authorities deny reports that his health has deteriorated significantly since his detention. Arifoglu remained in solitary confinement as of today.