Petitioners urge Azerbaijan to free Eynulla Fatullayev

January 20, 2010

His Excellency Ilham Aliyev
President of Azerbaijan
19 Istiqlaliyyat Street

370066, Azerbaijan

Hand-delivered to Charge d’Affaires Khazar Ibrahim at the Azerbaijani Embassy in Washington
Also via facsimile: +994 12 492 0625 and 
+994 12 492 3543

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists urges you to open a new page in your government’s policies toward the independent and opposition press, one that would demonstrate tolerance for the critical role of media in a democracy. No other action would contribute to this goal as much as the immediate release of Eynulla Fatullayev, editor of the now-closed independent Russian-language weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the Azeri-language daily Gündalik Azarbaycan, who has been imprisoned since April 2007 on charges that range from defamation to terrorism.

Our research shows that the charges were not based on factual evidence and were pursued, instead, to retaliate against Fatullayev and silence his critical journalism.

The persecution of Fatullayev began after he wrote an article marking the second anniversary of the March 2005 murder of his former editor and mentor Elmar Huseynov. The piece, published in Realny Azerbaijan and headlined “Lead and Roses,” accused Azerbaijani authorities of deliberately obstructing the investigation into Huseynov’s killing, and ignoring evidence that could lead to the masterminds. Fatullayev said the assassination was carried out by a criminal group that included several Georgian citizens who had been hired by an unnamed official in Baku. Although Azerbaijani officials publicly claimed to be seeking Georgian citizens in the case, Fatullayev wrote that they had not provided authorities in Georgia with arrest warrants or supporting evidence. Huseynov’s killing remains unsolved.

Four days after Fatullayev’s piece was published, on March 6, 2007, his mother received an anonymous phone call. As a “wise woman,” the caller said, she should “talk sense” into her son or “we will send him to Elmar.” Fatullayev reported the threat to police, but it was he who came under intense investigation.

In April 2007, a Yasamal District Court judge convicted Fatullayev of defaming Azerbaijanis in an Internet posting that was falsely attributed to him. The posting, published on several Web sites, said Azerbaijanis bore some responsibility for the 1992 killings of residents of the restive Nagorno-Karabakh region, according to local news reports. Fatullayev was sentenced to a 30-month term and taken into custody immediately. With Fatullayev jailed, authorities evicted Realny Azerbaijan and Gündalik Azarbaycan from their Baku offices, citing purported fire safety and building code violations. Both soon stopped publishing.

More charges followed against Fatullayev. In October 2007, a judge in the Azerbaijani Court of Serious Crimes found Fatullayev guilty of terrorism, incitement to ethnic hatred, and tax evasion. Fatullayev’s sentences were consolidated, and he was ordered to serve a total of eight years and six months in prison.

The terrorism and incitement charges stemmed from a Realny Azerbaijan commentary headlined “The Aliyevs Go to War,” which analyzed possible consequences for Azerbaijan if the United States were to wage war with Iran. The piece sharply criticized your foreign policy. Although Fatullayev’s article was similar to many others published on the subject, only Fatullayev was charged and tried. The indictment alleged that international business people and diplomats had complained about the story, claiming to have been “frightened” by it. Yet no such witnesses ever testified in court, according to trial monitors. The tax case was filed after Fatullayev was jailed on other charges and his newspapers had been ousted from their offices, making it impossible to collect the records needed to mount a defense.

The Supreme Court of Azerbaijan denied Fatullayev’s appeal in June 2008, ending domestic legal avenues. Fatullayev appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, which began reviewing the case in September 2008. The case is pending.

In a very disturbing development, authorities with the Azerbaijani Penitentiary Service searched Fatullayev’s cell on December 29, 2009, and claimed to have found 0.22 grams of heroin. Fatullayev, who was charged with drug possession and moved into isolation, has denied possessing any drugs. Based on Fatullayev’s account, as relayed to us by his attorney, and based on the government’s long record of persecuting the editor, CPJ believes this new drug charge to be fabricated.

The timing of the new charge points to manipulation. The charge was filed as the European Court was expected to set a hearing date in Fatullayev’s case. The journalist’s supporters believe this new charge was trumped up to ensure Fatullayev would remain in jail no matter what the European Court found. The drug possession charge could bring up to three years in prison.

Our research shows that Fatullayev has committed no criminal offense, and that he is being persecuted in reprisal for reporting that challenged the official investigation into Huseynov’s unsolved murder. In November 2009, the Committee to Protect Journalists recognized Fatullayev’s courageous journalism by awarding him one of our International Press Freedom Awards. Hundreds of international journalists gathered to honor him and sign petitions seeking his release. You will find their names below.

We were relieved to hear of the December 26, 2009, release on humanitarian grounds of Bizim Yol reporter Mushfig Huseynov, whose health had deteriorated in state custody. We call upon Your Excellency to build on this positive step and to free Eynulla Fatullayev. Releasing our unjustly imprisoned colleague will reflect your commitment to the rule of law and to a just and tolerant democratic society.


Joel Simon
Executive Director

Paul Steiger
Chairman, Committee to Protect Journalists



Mohamed Abdel Dayem

Mustafa Haji Abdinur

Ingrid Abromovitch

Marguerite Adams

Steve Adler

Paige Alexander

Dave Allen

Ron Allen

Marcia Allina

Julianna Ams

Jenny Anderson

Cameron Lamar Anderson

Elena Anfimova

Audra Ang

Karin Annus

Makoto Araki

Snigdha Aramalla

Iason Athanasiadis

Justin Bachman

Justin Baer

Maziar Bahari

Justin Balding

Dean Baquet

Paul M. Barrett

Martin A. Barron

Ibrahim Barzak

Michael Bass

Candace N. Beck

Barbara Becker

Laurie Becklund

Shannon Bell

Amanda Bennett

Richard Berke

D.K. Berman

F.P. Bernasconi

Jake Bernstein

Fabio Bertoni

Erin M. Bicker

Ana Bickford

Robin Bierstedt

Hamid Biglari

Otis Bilodeau

Bruce Birenboim

George Black

Joan Boccardi

Louis D. Boccardi

Jason Boehmer

Carroll Bogert

Christopher Boies

David Boies

Mary Boies

Tamiko Bolton

Jane Boon

Catalina Botero

Christa Bowers

Graham Bowley

Liz Bowyer

Rose Brady

Diane Brady

Alasdair Breach

Margaret Brennan

Lisa Brock

Edward Broughton

Eve Burton

Jonathan Cain

Chris Calhoun

Anthony Camerino

Michael Cameron

Monica Campbell

Karyn Caplan

Virginia Carter

Caitlin Clarke

Steve Cody

Dan Colarusso

Laura Colby

Rachel Colley

Catherine Collins

Roberta Columbus

Ronald Columbus

Michael G. Connolly

Mehtap Cevher Conti

Jason Conti

Ann Cooper

Jessica Corcoran

David Corvo

Helen Coster

Sharona Coutts

Rob Cox

Steve Crabill

Bruce Cranston

Gordon Crovitz

Anthony Currie

Kathleen Currie

Stephanie Dahle

Melissa Daly

Alessandro d’Ansembourg

Siobhan Darrow

Eric Dash

Julie B. Davis

Lisa L. Davis

Bernd Debusmann

Julianne Deitch

Ronald Dennett

Liam Denning

Frank Denton

Salvatore DiMartino

Justin Dini

Thomas Distler

Allan Dodds Frank

Courtney Dolan

Steven Donziger

Perri Dorset

Leonard Doyle

Maggie Drucker

Clare Duffy

Michael DuValley

Madeline Earp

Elisabeth Eaves

Thomas Edsall

Mark Egan

Michelle Ehrlich

Daniel Eilemberg

Jesse Eisinger

Maka Ekizashvili

Sarah Ellison

Stephen Engelberg

Wendy Engler

David Enrich

Bernard Estrade

David Faber

Seth Faison

Margaret Farley

Jeremy Feigelson

Sarah Feigelson

Esther Fein

Robert Feinberg

Jonas Max Ferris

Robin Fields

Kyle Fink

Sheri Fink

Ian Fisher

Laura Fitzpatrick

Mary Laurence Flynn

Irene Foxhall

Alix M. Freedman

Sasha Frere-Jones

Robert Friedman

Josh Friedman

David Friend

Sonya K. Fry

Archil Gachechiladze

Ken Garcia

Alexis Gelber

Barton Gellman

Sandra Genelius

Aparisim “Bobby” Ghosh

Sarah Gilbert

Nancy Giles

Christine McAuley Glancey

Tom Glocer

Maarit Glocer

Tom Gooch

James C. Goodale

Toni K. Goodale

Alice Gottesman

Cheryl Gould

Gail C. Gove

Lamar Graham

Victoria Graham

David Granz

Lisa Green

Steve Greenblatt

Meredith Greene Megaw

Peter R. Greiff

Stone Grissom

Sarah Gross

Lisa Grunwald

Jose Luis Gutierrez

Janet Guyon

Larry Hackett

Ian Hague

John E. Haire

Kathy Haire

Neil Hallsworth

Christopher J. Hamilton

Mona Hamouly

David Handschuh

Raymond Happy

Victoria Harmon

Jenny Harris

Laurie Hays

Janet Heard

Barbara Held

Sharon Held

Lawrence Herman

Kath and Les Hinton

Susan Hirsch

Brett Holey

Chris Hondros

Caroline Horn

Julie Horowitz

Racheal Howard

Deborah Howell

Stephen Hubbell

Katherine Hunt-Morr

Felip Ibarguen

Susana L. Ibarguen

Alberto Ibarguen

Laura Ibarguen

Diego Ibarguen

Vicki Ingrassia

Lawrence Ingrassia

Paul I. Ingrassia

Steven Isenberg

Yves Istel

Mark Jackson

Rebecca Jenkin

Dale J. Jenkins

Elizabeth Jensen

Charisse Jones

Elizabeth Joseph

Jana Mila Juginovic

Joseph Kahn

Karen Kaiser

T.E. Kandel

Mryon Kandel

Peter Kaplan

Refet Kaplan

Stuart Karle

Theresa Karle

Sarah Katt

Theresa Keller

John Kelly

James Kelly

Julie King

Duncan King

Daniel Klaidman

Jonathan Klein

Athelia Knight

Gary Knight

Rika Kobayshi

John Koblin

Richard Kosinski

Philip A. Kuntz

Koji Kurata

Kamel Labidi

Una LaMarche

Gara LaMarche

J.G. Lambert

Cleve Langton

Patricia Langton

Sarah R. Larson

Todd Larson

Peter Lattman

Carlos Lauria

Stella Lee

Michelle Lee

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt

Alexis Lenos

Robert Lenzner

Jonathan Lethem

Andrew Levine

Mia Lewis

Anthony Lewis

Eliza Lewis

David Lewis

Madeleine Lim

Christine Lin

Steven Lipin

Amy Lipin

Joanne Lipman

Betty Liu

Simon Locke

Andrew Longstreth

Carolee Lowry

Sarah Lubman

Aaron Lucchetti

Abraham Lustgarten

Jodie Lustgarten

Stacey Lutzker

Jacki Lyden

John R. MacArthur

Paige Magness

C. Peter Magrath

Jeremy Main

James Malkin

Joan Malkin

Penelope Manis

Megan Marcus

John Marcus

Benjamin E. Marks

Cristina Martinez

Francesca Martini

Michael Massing

Tyler Mathisen

Alejandra Matus

Kelly McAndrew

Andrew McCormack

David E. McCraw

Dagen McDowell

Gregory McGurdy

Stephanie N. Mehta

Sheryl A. Mendez

Sarah Bruning Meron

Ted Merz

Carlos Meza

Mark Miller

Terrence Miller

Andrea Mitchell

Pat Mitchell

Ellen Molle

David A. Montminy

Ellen Moskowitz

Lisa Mueller

Kristen Mulvihill

Enrique Munoz

Boris Munoz

Victor Navasky

Anne Navasky

Patricio Navia

Yvette Neier

Anne Nelson

Martha Nelson

Stuart Newberger

Marcy Newberger

Donald Newhouse

Jane Nicholls

Janice Nittoli

Kate Nocera

Joseph Nocera

Shirim Nothenberg

Melissa Offenhartz

Nina Ognianova

Cindy O’Hagan

Katherine O’Hearn

Winnie O’Kelly

James O’Neill

Miguel O’Neill

Ellen Oppenheim

Jeffrey A. Oppenheim

Peter Osnos

Kate O’Sullivan

Barclay Palmer

Sandra Panem

Claudia Parsons

Benjamin Pauker

Sarah Paulsworth

Norman Pearlstine

Sarah Pekow

F.J. Pensiero

Charles Perkins

Richard Perry

Barbara Peterson

Jo Petherbridge

Thomas Pica

Sara M. Pines

Spencer Platt

Ellen Pollock

Hilary Potkewitz

Lynn Povich

Christopher Power

Emma Powers

Alison Preece

Matthew Price

Anna Prior

Brett Pulley

Jane Bryant Quinn

Eric Rabe

Joe Raedle

Meghan Rafferty

Cathy Raines

Archana Rajan

Lova Rakotomalala

Jessica Ramos

David Remnick

Vasil Revishili

James Reynolds

Tom Rhodes

David Rhodes

Emma Rhodes

Colette T. Rhoney

R. Bruce Rich

Megan Rich

Teresa Riordan

Naziha Rejiba

Natalie Robins

Samuel Robinson

David Rohde

Merrill Rose

Richard Roth

Dan Roth

Sandy Rowe

Elizabeth Rubin

Robert Russell

David Saber

Roxana Saberi

Maria Salazar-Ferro

John Sammis

Alexander Samuelson

Joaquin Sapien

Kem Sawyer

Sam Schechaer

Amy Schiller

Chad Schlegel

William E. Schmidt

Dawn Schneider

Lana Schupbach

Harold E. Schwartz

Thomas Sclafani

Ciro Scotti

Laura Secor

Henny Sender

Brendan Sexton

Brian A. Shactman

Ryan G. Shaffer

Randy L. Shapiro

James Shapiro

Joan Shapiro

Danielle Shapiro

Jacob Shapiro

Bill Shapiro

Elizabeth W. Shaw

Stephan Shepard

Tasneem Shikan Novak

Gary Silverman

Calvin Sims

Brett Singer

Randi Singer

Eve Smith

Harry Smith

Adam Smith

Frank Smyth

Heather R. Solow

George Soros

Dan Southerland

Alice Forbes Spear

Fiona Spruill

Sharon Stack

Brian W. Steel

Bernard L. Stein

Gabriella Stern

Michael L. Stern

James B. Stewart

Brent Stirton

Joanna Stone Herman

Muzaffar Suleymanov

Neeti Sundaresh

Bill Sweeney

Stephanie Sy

David Sylvia

Fiona Tarazi

George Tchiladze

Zephyr Teachout

Mary Thompson

Nicholas Thompson

Kendra Thompson

Imogene Thomson

Luke Thomson

Jack Thomson

James Tobin

Richard Tofel

Zang Toi

Laura Trevelyan

Anton Troianovski

Carll Tucker

Josh Tyrangiel

Eric Umansky

Lucas van Praag

Imre Lieuwe Vellenga

Peter J. Verrengia

Karl Vick

Amy Virship

Christina von Bargen

Felix Von Salmon

Abdul Waheed Wafa

Thomas Wallace

Ping Wang

Scott Wapner

Sarah Way

Henry Elliot Weinstein

Jiang Weiping

Jacob Weisberg

Melissa Weisberg

Bari Weiss

Allison Werder

Shelby White

Anna White

Mark White

Daniel Whitman

Summer Wilkie

Scott Wilkins

Michael Williams

James Willse

Simon Wilson

Kurt Wimmer

Lauren Wolfe

Betty Wong

Richard B. Woodward

Suzanne Woolley

Minky Worden

Patrick Worsnip

Ellen Wulfhorst

Carol Joe Yen

D.R. Young

Miriam A. Young

Emma Zghal

Yan Zhao

Jeffrey Zorabedian

Laurence Zuckerman