Opposition photojournalist dies

New York, June 22, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply saddened by the death on Sunday of Alim Kazimli, photo correspondent for the Baku-based opposition newspaper Yeni Musavat (New Equality). Despite a lengthy hospital stay and home medical treatment for a December 2004 stroke that left him partially paralyzed, the 51-year-old Kazimli died several days after falling into a coma. Family and colleagues said Kazimli’s stroke was brought on by a violent argument involving the journalist and officials at a Baku police station, according to local and international press reports.

On December 28, 2004, Kazimli went to the Office and Registration and Identification (ORUL) at the Narimanov district police department in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, to get Azeri internal passports for him and his wife, according to press reports. A confrontation ensued when Kazimli protested alleged bribe-taking and chaotic conditions in the office, Mekhman Aliyev, head of the Azeri news agency Turan, told CPJ in a telephone interview. Aliyev said he talked to Kazimli shortly after the incident.

When Kazimli identified himself as a correspondent for Yeni Musavat and demanded an office manager correct the problems, the manager struck Kazimli on the head with a telephone, Aliyev told CPJ. Turan journalists Elkhan Kerimov and Tofig Dadashev, who also said they talked to Kazimli after the incident, confirmed the account for CPJ.

Kazimli was immediately rushed to a Baku hospital where doctors diagnosed him with a stroke, according to local press reports.

Narimanov district police officials said that no one struck Kazimli, and that the journalist simply lost consciousness, Turan reported. In a statement issued today, the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry said the manager did not hit Kazimli but was simply “trying to calm him down.” The statement said that the manager had been “strongly reprimanded for his impolite treatment of Kazimli.”

Kazimli was released from the hospital in March 2005, but he continued receiving medical treatment at home. He did not return to work, his condition deteriorated, and he fell into a coma several days prior to his death on Sunday, local reports said.

“We are deeply disturbed by the untimely death of our colleague Alim Kazimli,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on Azeri authorities to launch a thorough probe into the circumstances surrounding his death.”

This is the second death of an Azeri opposition journalist this year. On March 2, Elmar Husyenov, founder and editor of the opposition weekly news magazine Monitor, was shot and killed in his Baku apartment building. His murder remains unsolved.