Azerbaijan must release independent editor on appeal

New York, March 12, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today’s nine-year prison sentence handed to Avaz Zeynally, chief editor of the independent Azerbaijani daily Khural, and calls for justice in the case. 
“This verdict effectively criminalizes independent and critical journalism in Azerbaijan.” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia research Associate Muzaffar Suleymanov.  “Journalists face increasing repression as Azerbaijan moves away from its press freedom commitments. The appeals court must vacate this verdict and release Zeynally.”
Authorities imprisoned Zeynally in October 2011 after a parliament member accused him of extortion. Zeynally has denied the allegations and claims he has been imprisoned in retaliation for critical reporting on the government, and that he was offered bribes in exchange for favorable reporting.  Defense lawyers announced plans to appeal the verdict and indicated that investigators failed to produce any credible evidence against Zeynally.