On November 7, 2007, an unknown couple assailed Zakhidov, editor of the pro-opposition daily Azadlyg, on a Baku street. Zakhidov told local reporters that the woman started screaming as if he had insulted her; a moment later, the man tried to attack him. With the help of passers-by, the journalist said, he was able to fend them off. But the couple later filed a complaint with police, claiming that the editor had assaulted them.
Authorities acted with remarkable speed: On November 10, 2007, a judge at the Yasamal District Court of Baku placed Zakhidov in pretrial detention after police had interrogated him for nine hours. He was charged with “hooliganism” and inflicting “minor bodily harm.”
Zakhidov had long been at odds with authorities because of his work for one of Azerbaijan’s most critical newspapers. He is also the brother of prominent satirist Sakit Zakhidov, who was also jailed at the time on politicized charges. Sakit Zakhidov was released in April 2009, having served all but two and a half months of a three-year prison term.
On March 7, 2008, a Baku district court sentenced Genimet Zakhidov to four years in jail, despite contradictory testimony from prosecution witnesses and the absence of any evidence of “bodily harm,” the journalist’s lawyer, Elchin Sadygov, told CPJ. Eyewitnesses for the defense were barred from testifying, he said. Zakhidov was given the maximum penalty allowed by law.
In September 2009, the Azizbayov District Court in Baku rejected a defense bid for a lighter punishment, the independent news Web site Kavkazsky Uzel reported. The court’s stated reason: Zakhidov had been reprimanded after he refused to join a volleyball game with inmates, the Baku-based Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety reported.