Ziya Asadli, a regional reporter with independent newspaper Azadliq, was arrested in 2017, after reporting on protests in eastern Azerbaijan, and sentenced to three years in prison on charges of hooliganism on the same day as his arrest. Azadliq filed a petition for his early release on May 3, 2019, but Salyan district court rejected the appeal.
Azerbaijan’s Bilasuvar district court on September 5, 2017, sentenced Asadli to three years in prison on charges of hooliganism with the use of a weapon or an object that can be used as a weapon, and ordered his immediate arrest, according to the regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel.
The case against the journalist was opened soon after Asadli reported on April 5 protests in the Neftchala district in Azerbaijan’s east, regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported. The journalist had interviewed local residents who complained about poverty, unemployment, and cuts in gas supplies.
On April 19, Asadli was allegedly assaulted by a local teahouse’s manager, who said he had previously warned the journalist not to visit the teahouse because he was “an opposition member,” according to media reports. Asadli told the Kavkazsky Uzel that the teahouse manager attacked him, took his phone, and broke it. In response, the journalist notified police.
The manager then filed a complaint to the local police alleging Asadli assaulted him with the phone in question. On May 3, 2017, Azerbaijani authorities opened a criminal case under article 221.3 of the criminal code against Asadli, according to Kavkazsky Uzel.
On June 12, 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the guilty verdict, Kavkazsky Uzel reported. On May 3, 2019, Azadliq newspaper petitioned Salyan District Court to review a request for Asadli’s early release, the newspaper reported; however, the judge did not approve the request that day.
Asadli is being held in prison No. 5 in Salyan district, near Baku.
On September 27, 2019, CPJ spoke with Ganimat Zayidov–editor-in-chief of Azadliq newspaper–via messaging app. Zayidov told CPJ that Asadli is suffering from gastritis. He is able to receive medical care in prison, Zayidov said, but prisoners must pay for it.
On October 11, 2019, CPJ emailed the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Azerbaijan but did not receive a response to its request for comment.