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Azerbaijani journalist arrested and jailed for 3 years for political reasons: opinion for the ECtHR

Human rights defenders and journalists from Azerbaijan who were persecuted and arrested in 2014 filed applications with the European Court of Human Rights. Their applications are now pending hearing. The applicants include Rauf Mirgadirov, a journalist covering the conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Mirgadirov was staying in Turkey where he was working as a journalist. However, the Turkish authorities decided to cancel his accreditation without cause, and as a result he was forced to leave the country. When he was travelling to Georgia he was arrested and deported to Azerbaijan where he was charged with treason. In March 2016 after almost 3 years of detention he was released under the amnesty announced by the Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev. In the application to the ECtHR the journalist argued violations of the freedom of speech and opposed the political nature of his detention.

On 20 May the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Freedom Now and Human Rights House Foundation filed an amicus curiae brief to the ECtHR. In the brief the organisations stated that the Turkish authorities cancelled Mr Mirgadirov’s accreditation without providing an appropriate justification, thereby violating the standards on the freedom of expression. The brief further noted that the journalist had been detained pending trial due to political reasons. His detention was supposed to be in retaliation for his journalistic activity, especially describing the policy of the Azerbaijani authorities towards the conflict over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The European Court of Human Rights stated twice, in the cases of R. Jafarov and I. Mammadov, that the practice of Azerbaijani authorities detaining opposition figures, human rights defenders and journalists constitutes a violation of the right to personal freedom (Article 5 of the Convention). Moreover, the Court stated that their arrest was motivated by political reasons.

The amicus curiae brief may be accessed here.

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