New York, July 6, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today’s decision by Azerbaijan’s Garadagh District Court in Baku to sentence imprisoned independent editor Eynulla Fatullayev to two and a half years in a strict-regime prison after finding him guilty of drug possession. Fatullayev, a 2009 recipient of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award, has already served more than three years of an eight and a half year term on a series of fabricated charges, including terrorism.
Judge Ismail Khalilov announced the verdict against Fatullayev in a court full of international observers. Despite the fact that the editor had already served six months in a pretrial isolation unit since late December, Khalilov announced that Fatullayev’s new term will begin in full starting today, the journalist’s father, Emin Fatullayev, told CPJ.
As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, Azerbaijan is bound to comply with the rulings of the
“We are outraged at today’s verdict against Eynulla Fatullayev and call on the Baku Appellate Court to overturn it promptly,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator
Just as the
Based on Fatullayev’s account and authorities’ longstanding persecution of the editor, CPJ has concluded that the drug charge was fabricated. In January, the editor was moved from the prison colony, where he has been serving his longer term, to a solitary detention unit, where he remains, the editor’s father told CPJ today.
If not overturned on appeal, the new verdict will result in Fatullayev’s move to a strict-security prison notorious for harsh conditions and a record of inmate abuse.
Before Khalilov pronounced Fatullayev guilty today, the editor was given the chance to speak. He told the court he had received warnings to stop his journalism before he was first arrested in April 2007, while he was editing the now-defunct Realny Azerbaijan: “One top official told me that my newspaper irritates the head of state because it is not only critical but also popular,” the Azerbaijani service of the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty quoted Fatullayev as saying. He said he is not expecting authorities to release him because they do not want him to continue working as a journalist. But Fatullayev went on to pledge that if released he would “produce an even more popular newspaper than I used to,”