Azerbaijani journalist Avaz Zeynalli, lawyer Elchin Sadygov remanded for 4 months on bribery expenses

New York, September 12, 2022 – Azerbaijani authorities ought to launch journalist Avaz Zeynalli and lawyer Elchin Sadygov and drop the costs in opposition to them, the Committee to Defend Journalists stated Monday.

On Saturday, September 10, uniformed officers who recognized themselves as a part of the prosecutor normal’s workplace arrested Zeynalli, proprietor and chief editor of the impartial information outlet Xural, and Sadygov, a distinguished human rights lawyer who steadily defends journalists, within the capital, Baku, after a pro-government information outlet printed claims that the pair extorted cash from a jailed businessman in return for favorable protection of his case, in accordance with a number of information reviews and an announcement by the prosecutor normal’s workplace.

That night, Binagadi district court docket in Baku ordered Zeynalli and Sadygov to be remanded in custody for 4 months on expenses of large-scale bribe-taking and accent to bribe-taking, respectively, these reviews stated. Each expenses carry a penalty of between eight and 12 years in jail below Article 311.3.3 of the felony code of Azerbaijan, in accordance with Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, Sadygov’s lawyer, who spoke to CPJ by cellphone. 

Each males denied the costs and stated they consider they’re retaliation for his or her skilled work, in accordance with these reviews, Hajiyev, and Agil Layij, Zeynalli’s lawyer, who communicated with CPJ by e-mail. The legal professionals instructed CPJ they’d filed an enchantment of the choice to remand them in custody.

“Bribery expenses in opposition to Avaz Zeynalli, a important journalist whom authorities have beforehand jailed for his work, and Elchin Sadygov, a lawyer who repeatedly defends journalists in opposition to state repression, are regarding, particularly as pro-government media made the accusations,” stated Gulnoza Mentioned, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Azerbaijani authorities ought to free Zeynalli and Sadygov, drop the costs in opposition to them, and chorus from jailing members of the press and their advocates in retaliation for his or her work.”

Azerbaijani journalist Avaz Zeynalli, lawyer Elchin Sadygov remanded for 4 months on bribery expenses
Elchin Sadygov, a distinguished human rights lawyer who steadily defends journalists, was accused of helping journalist Avaz Zeynalli in extorting a jailed businessman for favorable protection and was arrested in Baku, Azerbaijan, on September 10, 2022. (Screengrab: Anews TV / YouTube)

Zeynalli additionally works as a presenter for Xural’s YouTube channel Xural TV, which has 215,000 subscribers; Xural and Xural TV cowl human rights abuses, corruption, and people important of the federal government, in accordance with these reviews and a CPJ overview of their content material.

On September 7, pro-government information web site Haqqin printed a narrative accusing Zeynalli of extorting 20,000 manats (US$11,800) from the household of Rasim Mammadov, the previous head of an area metal manufacturing facility who’s presently on trial for embezzlement, in return for ceasing adverse protection of his case; and later that night accused Sadygov, who’s Mammadov’s lawyer, of appearing as an middleman.

The story included audio of a voice message despatched by Zeynalli to Sadygov, by which the previous defends his protection of the businessman’s case and presents to “return” an unspoken object if the latter was uncomfortable; Haqqin alleged that the article to be returned was the extorted cash.

In a broadcast on Xural TV the next day, Zeynalli stated the recorded voice was his however stated he was providing to return paperwork associated to the businessman’s case. Sadygov stated the identical to native media, including that the Mammadov household instructed him Zeynalli didn’t extort them. 

At 3 p.m. on September 10, round seven plainclothes officers and one uniformed officer from the prosecutor normal’s workplace detained Zeynalli at a restaurant not removed from Baku metropolis middle, in accordance with Ilkin Rustamzade, an area activist and pal of Zeynalli who was with him on the time and spoke to CPJ by cellphone. 

Rustamzade instructed CPJ that he believes authorities feared that Zeynalli and Sadygov possessed paperwork regarding current threats made by Mammadov to disclose corruption amongst high-placed authorities officers.

The officers took the journalist to Xural’s editorial workplace, the place they carried out a search and confiscated the outlet’s paperwork and laptop laborious disks, Rustamzade stated; additionally they searched Zeynalli’s dwelling and seized a pc, books, and three,000 euros (US$3,040), in accordance with a report that cited the journalist’s spouse.

That night, officers from the prosecutor normal’s workplace arrested Sadygov, searched his workplace and residential, and confiscated paperwork and his cell phone, in accordance with information reviews and Hajiyev. 

Distinguished Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismailova wrote on Fb that Sadygov’s arrest “will go away dozens of activists, journalists and political prisoners with out authorized illustration,” including that “that, in all probability [is] the objective.” 

On September 12, Mammadov instructed authorities in court docket that Zeynalli had been “looking for bribes from me for years,” in accordance with native information web site Report.az. Layij instructed CPJ the assertion was of no consequence because the businessman was on trial and was both pressured by authorities or looking for to mitigate his sentence.

Zeynalli and Sadygov are held on the State Safety Service’s detention middle in Baku. Nonetheless, by regulation, they need to be held on the Penitentiary Service’s pretrial detention middle, Layij instructed CPJ, including that it’s unclear why authorities have chosen to cost them with bribe-taking, as this offense should be reserved for workers of the state.

Layij added that prosecutors introduced the costs based mostly solely on the media report, and no official criticism has been filed in opposition to them by Mammadov or his household. He stated he obtained data that the overall prosecutor’s workplace and State Safety Service are allegedly pressuring the Mammadov household to testify in opposition to the pair.

CPJ reached out to the Mammadov household for remark through their lawyer however didn’t obtain any reply. CPJ’s e-mail to the workplace of the prosecutor normal of Azerbaijan and cellphone name to the State Safety Service weren’t answered.

Zeynalli beforehand served three years of a nine-year sentence handed all the way down to him in 2012 on expenses together with bribery, extortion, and tax evasion deemed retaliatory by CPJ. 

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