Azerbaijani journalist’s murderers remain at large on second anniversary

New York, March 1, 2007—Two years after the contract-style assassination of opposition editor Elmar Huseynov, his murderers remain at large.

When Huseynov, an editor and founder of the newsweekly Monitor, was gunned down in his Baku apartment building on March 2, 2005, President Ilham Aliyev called the murder a “provocation against the Azerbaijani state” and an “act of terrorism.” But despite these strong terms, investigators have made no arrests and reported no progress in the case.

“After two years, Elmar Huseynov’s killers are still at large,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Failure to bring them to justice is fueling widespread self-censorship among independent and opposition journalists.”

A month after the killing, officials identified two Georgian citizens as suspects but never provided enough evidence to persuade Georgia to extradite them. Without a follow-up, the trail grew cold. Last July, a former Azerbaijani Interior Ministry officer, detained and tried on different charges, confessed to abetting in Huseynov’s assassination.

But Huseynov’s colleagues remain skeptical about this allegation, citing the abruptness of the revelation and pressure on inmates in Azerbaijani prisons, that can force “anyone to confess to anything,” explained Shahla Ismailova of the Baku-based Human Rights House. It was unclear if authorities were going to follow up on the reported confession.

A harsh critic of President Aliyev and his administration, Huseynov had endured scores of politicized lawsuits, tax inspections, and suspensions during his publication’s six-year existence. The Monitor closed down after his murder.