Azerbaijani authorities on June 14, 2017 sentenced Fikret Faramazoglu, chief editor of the news website Journalistic Research Center, to seven years in prison for extortion and banned him from working as a journalist for two years following his release, according to media reports.
Azerbaijani authorities detained Faramazoglu on June 30, 2016, and later charged him with extorting a large sum of money from a restaurant owner, pro-government local media reported at the time.
During his court trial, authorities alleged that Faramazoglu signed a police report stating that 3,000 Azerbaijani manats (US$1,700) were found in his pocket. The journalist during court proceedings denied signing the police report, according to the independent news site Kavkazsky Uzel.
Faramazoglu told the court he and his family were on a trip when the first incident of alleged extortion took place, and requested that he be allowed to call witnesses. The judge denied his request, according to the independent Azerbaijani free expression group Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety.
Faramazoglu’s lawyer, Elchin Sadygov, told CPJ that the journalist was detained soon after he reported that restaurants were allegedly operating as brothels under the protection of law-enforcement agencies. Sadygov told media following the Baku court’s verdict that he thinks the case was retaliation for Faramazoglu’s reporting.
Faramazoglu’s wife, Faiga Nusrati, wrote in an email to CPJ in December 2016 that her husband said he had been severely beaten while in detention and lost several teeth. The judge dismissed Faramazoglu’s request for authorities to investigate the beating, according to reports.
Faramazoglu has previously been the target of politically motivated harassment in retaliation for his critical reporting. In 2006, CPJ documented that Azerbaijani authorities found Faramazoglu, then chief editor of the Baku-based opposition weekly 24 Saat, guilty of libel, and sentenced him to a one-year suspended prison term in retaliation for his reporting on alleged corruption in Azerbaijani law enforcement.
Faramazoglu was not included on the 2016 prison census because CPJ did not know about the journalistic links to his case at the time.
Azeri authorities were holding Faramazoglu in Prison No. 2 in Baku. His lawyer, Elchin Sadygov, told CPJ in September 2018 that the journalist was receiving medical treatment for his heart condition at the prison hospital.