Opposition editor abducted, brutally beaten

New York, May 22, 2006–Five unidentified men abducted and severely beat Bakhaddin Khaziyev, editor-in-chief of the Baku-based opposition newspaper Bizim Yol, early Friday morning, according to local and international press reports. Khaziyev was hospitalized in serious condition with multiple fractures and bruises.

Khaziyev, who is also deputy chairman of the opposition People’s Front of Azerbaijan, links the attack to his journalism, the news agency Turan said. His recent articles in Bizim Yol criticized high-ranking officials from the Ministry of National Security (MNB), the Russian service of BBC reported.

Idrak Abbasov, chairman of the Baku-based Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, who spoke with Khaziyev at his hospital bed, told CPJ that the editor was on his way home after a late night in the newsroom when two cars intercepted his own around 1 a.m. on Friday. Five men in civilian clothes grabbed Khaziyev, tied his hands, put a bag on his head, put him in a car, and drove him to an unknown location, beating him on the way, and telling him to stop his critical writing.

The abductors took Khaziyev to a courtyard in the Baku outskirts, where they continued beating him for several hours, after which they drove over his legs. Khaziyev lost consciousness and woke up the next morning, when he was found and taken to a Baku hospital, Turan said.

“We condemn this attack on our colleague Bakhaddin Khaziyev and call on Azerbaijani authorities to aggressively investigate the incident and bring all responsible to justice,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We urge Azerbaijani authorities to end the pattern of impunity in attacks against journalists and to thoroughly investigate all motives.”

In a similar incident on March 5, three unknown attackers abducted, beat, and slashed Fikret Huseynli (Huseinli), a reporter for the opposition newspaper Azadlyg. (See CPJ’s March 7 alert.) Huseynli had received several prior threats in connection with articles on alleged bribe-taking among senior government officials and alleged criminal activities involving wealthy business people. The Azerbaijani Interior Ministry quickly found that the attack was not work-related, local press reports said, although it was not clear whether the agency ever looked at professional motives.