CPJ concerned about Fatullayev’s safety, calls for his release

New York, March 21, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed alarm today about reported threats in prison against embattled editor Eynulla Fatullayev, at left. According to CPJ interviews and local press reports, Fatullayev has feared for his life since his recent transfer to a new jail, prompting him to request that he be isolated from other inmates. Now in solitary confinement, his health has deteriorated and he has not received medical treatment, according to CPJ research.

According to Anar Gasymov, a member of Fatullayev’s legal team, the journalist’s life is in danger. Fatullayev received a tip that hostile inmates have been getting ready to assault him since he was transferred to Prison No. 1 in Baku on March 2, Gasymov, told the independent Caucasus news website Kavkazsky Uzel.

Emin Huseynov, head of the Baku-based Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), an organization that has long advocated for Fatullayev’s release, told CPJ that the editor has bronchitis, as well as skin and urinary tract infections. His weight has significantly dropped, Huseynov said.

“We call on authorities at Baku’s Prison No. 1 to ensure that Fatullayev receives prompt and adequate medical treatment and that his safety in custody is guaranteed,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Fatullayev’s imprisonment is altogether illegal. Azerbaijan must abide by its international commitments and release him at once.”

Until early March, authorities kept Fatullayev in a pretrial detention facility in Baku, while he was appealing his two-and-a-half-year prison sentence on fabricated drug-possession charges; the Baku Appeal’s Court denied the appeal on January 25. According to Huseynov, following his rebuffed appeal, Fatullayev requested that he be placed in a special prison facility reserved for convicted law enforcement agents, where, he believed, he would be under less risk of being harmed. But, instead, he was moved to Baku’s Prison No. 1, which is a facility for regular criminal convicts.

Azerbaijani authorities continue to defy the mandatory ruling by the Strasbourg-based European Court for Human Rights, which declared Fatullayev’s imprisonment illegal, and ordered his immediate release. In its March 11 decision, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers called on the Azerbaijani authorities “to remove without further delay” all obstacles to the implementation of the European Court’s judgment in Fatullayev’s case. The decision followed a CPJ joint mission to Strasbourg with other global press freedom groups, calling on the Council of Europe to take a firmer stance with Azerbaijan.