Police in Azerbaijan’s eastern Absheron district arrested Seymur Hazi, a reporter for the opposition newspaper Azadliq, over claims that he attacked a man at a bus stop, the independent regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported.
The day after his arrest, the Absheron District Court charged the journalist with hooliganism, and ordered him to be held in pretrial detention for two months, the report said.
Authorities said that Hazi beat a Baku resident named Magerram Hasanov while waiting for a bus on his way to work, according to Kavkazsky Uzel.
Hazi said in court that he had acted in self-defense after Hasanov had insulted and attacked him, Kavkazsky Uzel reported.
Elton Guliyev, the journalist’s lawyer, told Kavkazsky Uzel that he believed authorities had orchestrated the altercation as police arrived moments after it started. Guliyev said he believes Hazi was imprisoned in retaliation for his journalism.
Hazi, who also uses the name Haziyev, often criticized the Azerbaijani government’s domestic and foreign policies in his reports for Azadliq, according to Kavkazsky Uzel. As a host for Azadliq’s online TV program "Azerbaijan Saati" (Azeri Hour), he was critical of government corruption and human rights abuses.
Hazi was sentenced to five years in jail on January 29, 2015. A court upheld the sentence on September 29, 2015, according to the local press freedom group, Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety.
In 2016, Hazi received the Free Media Award, presented jointly by the Olso-based Fritt Ord and the Hamburg-based ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius foundations, for reporting on corruption and the abuse of power.
Hazi was being held at the prison No. 17 in Baku, according to Elchin Sadygov, a Baku-based lawyer.
In September 2018, the journalist had to undergo a surgical operation on his back and was recovering, his wife Nigar Hazi told CPJ in October 2018.