Sakit Zakhidov

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

On October 4, 2006, a Baku court convicted Zakhidov on a drug-possession charge and sentenced him to three years in prison. He was being held in the Bailovsk Prison in Baku.

Police arrested the prominent reporter and satirist for the Baku-based pro-opposition daily Azadlyg, and charged him with possession of heroin with intent to sell. Zakhidov denied the charge and said a police officer placed the drugs, about a third of an ounce, in his pocket during his arrest, according to local and international news reports. His arrest came three days after Ali Akhmedov, executive secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party, publicly urged authorities to silence Zakhidov. At a June 20, 2006, panel on media freedom, Akhmedov said: “No government official or member of parliament has avoided his slanders. Someone should put an end to it,” the news Web site EurasiaNet reported.

Authorities at Prison No. 14 in Baku did not provide Zakhidov, who had a heart condition, with adequate medical care, according to the journalist’s wife, Rena Zakhidov, and the Baku-based press freedom group Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS). An inmate reportedly attacked Zakhidov with scissors in September 2007. He was not moved from the facility despite that incident and ongoing harassment from prison officials and other inmates.

Zakhidov continued to write while in prison. On October 15, Azadlyg published his poem “Ilhamla Ireli” (Forward With Ilham), which had been smuggled from jail. The poem satirized that day’s presidential election, in which President Ilham Aliyev ran against six virtual unknowns. Three days after the poem appeared in Azadlyg, prison authorities prematurely moved Zakhidov from a medical facility back to jail, shaved his head, and beat him severely, IRFS said in a press conference with Zakhidov’s wife, Rena, who had visited the writer in jail on the eve of his 49th birthday on October 19.