Azerbaijan editor receives death threat after report on colleague’s murder

New York, March 7, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by a death threat against an editor in the capital Baku, four days after he reported that high-ranking officials there ordered the murder of his colleague Elmar Huseynov.

On Tuesday afternoon, Editor Eynulla Fatullayev, of the independent Russian-language weekly Realny Azerbaijan and Azeri-language daily Gündalik Azarbaycan, received an anonymous call at home that warned his elderly mom that as a “wise woman,” she should “talk sense into him,” Fatullayev told CPJ. Otherwise, the caller said, “we will send him to Elmar,” referring to Fatullayev’s late editor Elmar Huseynov, who was assassinated on March 2, 2005.

“We call on Azerbaijani authorities to protect Eynulla Fatullayev,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Azerbaiajni journalists have been working in a climate of fear since the unsolved murder of prominent editor Elmar Huseynov. In this context, the threat against Fatulllayev should be taken especially seriously.”

The threat comes four days after Fatullayev published an article in Realny Azerbaijan, accusing Azerbaijani authorities of obstructing the investigation into Huseynov’s killing. The article, “Lead and Roses,” alleges that Huseynov’s murder was ordered by high-ranking officials in Baku and carried out by a criminal group, including five Georgian citizens who had arrived in Baku two months prior to the assassination. In the piece, Fatullayev says he confirmed that Azerbaijan prosecutors never sent their Georgian counterparts an arrest warrant for the main suspect, Tahir Hubanov, and never gave Georgian authorities or Interpol any evidence of the five Georgians’ involvement in the murder.

Fatullayev reported the threat to police, as well as to Interior Minister Ramil Usubov and asked for personal protection. He has not yet received a response, Fatullayev told CPJ.

Realny Azerbaijan is often critical of authorities. In early August, Interior Minister Usubov filed three criminal defamation suits against Fatullayev and the weekly. In September, a Baku district court judge convicted Fatullayev of criminal libel and insult and sentenced him to a conditional two-year prison term. Local journalists and human rights activists said the decision was politicized and groundless.