Police detained Ikram Rahimov, chief editor of the news website Realliq, on October 26, 2018, the journalist's brother, Emin Rahimov, told CPJ. The following day, a Baku district court judge charged Ikram Rahimov with extortion and ruled that he should remain in detention for two months pending investigation, the journalist's lawyer, Elchin Sadygov, told CPJ.
Azerbaijan's security service published a statement on its website on October 27, 2018 that said Rahimov's arrest was based on "numerous complaints" from citizens. The statement alleged that Rahimov and his "subordinates" created Realliq and other "extortionist" websites to collect compromising information about individuals and threaten them with publishing "slanderous" articles.
Emin Rahimov said that earlier on the day of his brother's arrest, the journalist published a Facebook post in which he said an unknown vehicle was following him.
Ikram Rahimov went to the Baku office of the independent news agency Turan, where he told the editor-in-chief, Mehman Aliyev, about the incident, Emin Rahimov said. As Ikram Rahimov was exiting the building, four plainclothes men detained him and took him to the security services' Baku office, Emin Rahimov said.
The journalist's brother told CPJ that he believed the charges were in retaliation for an editorial that Rahimov published on his website a few hours before the arrest. In the editorial written as a letter to Ali Hasanov, a presidential adviser who oversees media, Realliq's editor addressed several issues, including alleged corruption in the country's Press Council, a government body. He wrote that "thousands of manats (Azerbaijani currency) allocated by the government to mass media have not been spent as planned." An Azeri-language service of the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported that the head of the Press Council, Mushfiq Alaskarli, denied the allegations and called them "unfounded."
Azerbaijani authorities have previously targeted Rahimov for his journalism, according to CPJ's research. He served a one-year prison sentence starting November 25, 2016 on defamation charges.
Emin Rahimov told CPJ that when he spoke with his detained brother on November 1, 2018, the journalist said he was innocent and being prosecuted for journalism. Emin Rahimov said his brother did not raise any issues about his health or prison conditions during the call.
On November 1, 2018, a Baku court of appeals denied Rahimov's appeal to be released on bail, the regional online news site Kavkazsky Uzel reported.