In Azerbaijan, reporter for opposition paper is abducted, beaten

New York, March 7, 2006–Three unidentified men abducted a reporter for the Azerbaijani opposition newspaper Azadlyg on Sunday night, beating him, breaking some of his fingers, and slashing him, according to local and international press reports.

The attack on Fikret Huseynli (Huseinli) was likely related to his work, Azadlyg Editor-in-Chief Ganimat Zahidov told reporters at a press conference on Monday. Huseynli recently received several anonymous telephone threats after writing articles in the Baku newspaper detailing alleged bribe-taking among senior government officials and criminal activities involving wealthy business people, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.

The assailants approached Huseynli from behind at 9:20 p.m. Sunday after the reporter had conducted unspecified interviews in the Patamdar suburb of Baku, according to press reports. One of the men struck Huseynli several times in the head and put the journalist into a car, those reports said. The assailants drove to a dark bus terminal in Baku, where they tied him up and broke some of his fingers. One assailant drew a knife and cut a deep wound on the journalist’s jaw, according to press reports.

A bleeding Huseynli collapsed on the street and the “attackers fled the scene believing they had killed [him],” the Moscow daily Novye Izvestia quoted Zahidov as saying. “Huseynli heard how they were speaking between themselves and were sure he was dead.”

A passing driver took Huseynli to a local hospital for treatment, according to press reports. Police in the Sabailsky region of Baku opened a criminal inquiry into the attack and interviewed Huseynli today, the Moscow-based Prima news agency reported.

Ekhsan Zahidov, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said today that the attack did not seem political or work related, according to local press reports.

“We’re alarmed by reports that suggest authorities may have prejudged this crime and are unwilling to fully investigate the potential motives behind it,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We call on authorities to undertake a thorough and impartial investigation.”