Editor-in-Chief Sadagatoglu and reporter Tagi of the independent newspaper Senet were convicted of inciting religious hatred. Sadagatoglu was sentenced to four years in prison; Tagi to three. The convictions were linked to a November 2006 article headlined “Europe and Us.” Tagi, the author, suggested that Islamic values were blocking development in the oil-rich Caspian Sea nation, according to international media reports. The article referred to Islam as a cause of infighting.
Tagi and Sadagatoglu received death threats from Islamic hard-liners in Azerbaijan and neighboring Iran. Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani, one of Iran’s most senior clerics, issued a fatwa in November 2006 and attended the journalists’ trial in April 2007.
Sadagatoglu and Tagi were among 114 political prisoners pardoned by presidential decree on December 28. Local press freedom advocates expected the two would be released by early 2008.