Media freedom advocate Emin Huseynov flees Azerbaijan as Baku hosts European Games

New York, June 13, 2015-Azerbaijani journalist Emin Huseynov was flown into exile in Switzerland on June 12, a few hours after the opening ceremony of the European Games in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, according to reports. Fearing imminent arrest during the country’s crackdown on rights groups and the press, Huseynov, the director of media freedom group Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, went into hiding in the Swiss embassy in Baku in August, according to reports.

“The Committee to Protect Journalists is relieved that Emin Huseynov has been given safe passage out of Azerbaijan. He joins a growing number of Azerbaijani journalists, human rights defenders, and civil rights activists forced to flee because of their work,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “CPJ remains concerned about the eight independent journalists currently jailed in Azerbaijan and calls on authorities to release them unconditionally before the European Games in Baku end.”

Huseynov was allowed to leave the country after months of negotiations between Swiss and Azerbaijani authorities, a spokesman for the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs told journalists. In August 2014, Huseynov was sentenced in absentia to pre-trial detention and placed under criminal investigation on accusations of tax evasion and engaging “in illegal business over unregistered grant contracts,” the news agency APA reported. Azerbaijan, the leading jailer of journalists in Europe and Central Asia, with at least eight currently in jail according to CPJ’s annual prison census, often uses retaliatory charges, such as those Huseynov faced, to try to silence the press.