Azerbaijani journalist detained in Moscow

New York, November 25, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is alarmed that Irada Huseynova, a correspondent with the Azerbaijani weekly Bakinsky Bulvar who currently works for the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES), was detained today in Moscow and could be extradited.

CJES director Oleg Panfilov told CPJ that Moscow police arrived at CJES offices and detained Huseynova at the request of Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General’s Office. The journalist faces extradition to Azerbaijan, where she was facing possible jail time for criminal defamation charges.

On September 4, 2001, Huseynova, along with Elmar Huseynov, founder of Bakinsky Bulvar, and Bella Zakirova, the editor-in-chief, were found guilty of civil defamation. The three were fined 80 million manats (US$17,400) each.

Baku mayor Hajibala Abutalibov sued Bakinsky Bulvar for defamation and sought to close the paper after it had published an article by Huseynova criticizing the mayor for closing and demolishing commercial kiosks, a move that left many unemployed. On September 6, the court forbade publishing houses and distributors from printing and circulating copies of Bakinsky Bulvar.

Following the paper’s closure, the court launched criminal prosecutions against Huseynov, Huseynova, and Zakirova. All three were charged with defaming the mayor, an offense punishable by one to three years in prison

On September 20, 2001, Huseynova requested political asylum in Germany after attending a conference in Warsaw, Poland, according to local press reports. She then moved to Moscow, where she began working as an editor and analyst at CJES.

On September 21, both Huseynov and Zakirova were found guilty of criminal defamation. The court sentenced Huseynov to six months in prison and gave Zakirova a six-month suspended sentence. Aliyev later signed a pardon authorizing Huseynov’s release.

“We are deeply concerned that our colleague faces criminal charges should she be extradited,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Journalists should never face criminal prosecution for doing their jobs, and we urge Russian authorities to release Huseynova immediately and allow her to remain in Moscow.”