Azerbaijani journalist to appeal 5.5 year suspended prison sentence

May 29, 2019 4:05 PM ET

Anar Mammadov, editor-in-chief of independent news website Criminal.az, is set to appeal his conviction on false news, anti-state, and other charges on June 4. (Anar Mammadov)

Washington, D.C., May 29, 2019 -- Azerbaijani authorities should drop the charges against journalist Anar Mammadov and allow him to work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On June 4, Mammadov, editor-in-chief of independent news website Criminal.az, is set to appear in a Baku court to appeal his conviction on false news, anti-state, and other charges, for which he was given a suspended sentence of five and a half years in jail on March 18, according to Mammadov, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app, and media reports.

Mammadov told CPJ that the charges stemmed from Criminal.az's reporting on a country-wide power outage and the attempted assassination of the mayor of Ganja in July 2018.

"Informing the general public about important events is what journalists do, and authorities should support that work instead of punishing reporters," said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said in New York. "Azerbaijani authorities should not contest Anar Mammadov's appeal and should allow him to work without fear of reprisal."

On July 9, 2018, Baku police officers arrested and charged Mammadov with making public statements against the state, abusing his professional duties, forgery, and "publishing false information," according to the journalist and media reports. The Baku Grave Crimes Court found him guilty on all charges on March 18, according to those reports.

The court issued Mammadov a suspended sixty-six-month prison sentence, including two years of probation, he said. During the period of his suspended sentence and probation, he is barred from leaving the country or changing his place of residence, and if he is charged with any additional crimes, the suspension will be reversed and he will be imprisoned, he told CPJ.

The day he was charged, Criminal.az was blocked in Azerbaijan, according to the journalist. Mammadov told CPJ that his website remains inaccessible in Azerbaijan except via virtual private network (VPN).

The Azerbaijan prosecutor general's office did not respond to CPJ's emailed request for comment.

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