Aliyev, editor-in-chief of the independent news website Azadxeber, was detained near a subway station in downtown Baku and charged with possession of illegal drugs. Colleagues disputed the charges and said they were in retaliation for his journalism.
Aliyev’s deputy, Parvin Zeynalov, told local journalists that the outlet’s critical reporting on the government’s religion policies, including perceived anti-Islamic activities, could have prompted the editor’s arrest.
CPJ has documented a pattern in which Azerbaijani authorities file questionable drug charges against journalists whose coverage has been at odds with official views.
Aliyev’s lawyer, Anar Gasimli, told the local press freedom group, the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, that Aliyev said investigators tortured him in custody and forced him to admit he had drugs in his possession. The institute quoted another lawyer for the journalist, Yalchin Imamov, as saying that two of Aliyev’s teeth were broken and his ear injured.
In January 2013, authorities also charged Aliyev with illegal import and sale of religious literature, making calls to overturn the constitutional regime, and incitement to ethnic and religious hatred, the press freedom group reported.
In March 2013, investigators finished the investigation against the editor, according to local media reports.
On December 9, 2013, the Baku Court for Grave Crimes sentenced Aliyev to 10 years in prison, according to the independent regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel. In June 2014, Azerbaijan’s Court of Appeals denied Aliyev’s appeal, reports said.
In April 2016, Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court denied Aliyev’s appeal, the independent TV station Meydan TV reported. In July 2016, the journalist’s attorney told the independent Azerbaijani news agency Turan that he planned to file a complaint with the European Court for Human Rights, but authorities were withholding the verdict, which is required to file a complaint.
Aliyev was being held in prison No. 2 in Baku.
CPJ’s calls in September 2018 to the penitentiary service of the Justice Ministry of Azerbaijan, which oversees the country’s prisons and prison colonies, went unanswered.