Agents with the National Security Agency arrested Hashimli, the editor of the independent news website Moderator and a reporter for the independent newspaper Bizim Yol, outside the offices of the Moderator in Baku. The same day agents claimed to have found a pistol and several grenades after raiding his home without presenting a court order and in the absence of a lawyer, according to news reports.
Agents also raided the newsrooms of the Moderator and Bizim Yol and confiscated equipment, the independent news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported. Both outlets are known for coverage of corruption and human rights abuses as well as for critical reporting on the government of President Ilham Aliyev.
On September 19, 2013, the Sabail District Court in Baku ordered that Hashimli be imprisoned for two months pending an investigation into accusations of smuggling and the illegal possession of weapons, according to news reports. Hashimli denied the allegations.
Emin Huseynov, director of the local press freedom group Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, told CPJ that he believed the charges against Hashimli were fabricated and that his arrest was meant to be a threat to the local press in the run-up to the October 2013 election, which Aliyev later won.
Citing Hashimli’s lawyer, Huseynov told CPJ that agents had orchestrated the detention of the journalist. He said that a man named Tavvakyul Gurbanov had called Hashimli and asked to meet him outside the Moderator offices about a personal matter. When Hashimli got in Gurbanov’s car, agents surrounded the vehicle and searched it. The agents claimed they found six guns and rounds of ammunition. Gurbanov said he brought the weapons along on Hashimli’s request, which the journalist denied, according to news reports. Hashimli denied having met Gurbanov before.
Gurbanov was detained and faced similar charges, news reports said.
In November 2013, Hashimli’s pretrial detention was extended for three months, according to news reports.
On May 15, 2014, the Baku Court of Grave Crimes sentenced Hashimli to eight years in prison, the Azerbaijani service of the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. After the Baku Appeals Court denied his appeal in December 2014, his lawyers asked Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court to review the case and acquit the journalist. The court upheld the sentence at a hearing in October 2015, Kavkazsky Uzel reported.
Hashimli was being held at Prison No. 1, outside Baku, according to an August 2014 report on political prisoners in Azerbaijan by a group of lawyers, human rights defenders, and non-governmental organizations. CPJ could not determine the status of Hashimli’s health.
In the run-up to the first European Games, held in Baku in June 2015, CPJ and the Sport for Rights coalition pressed the European Olympic Committees to demand the release of imprisoned journalists and a halt to Azerbaijan’s crackdown on journalists and civil society.