The two-year sentence handed down on 3 March by a court in Baku to Azerbaijani blogger Mehman Huseynov on a charge of slander, after he reported that he was tortured during a brief incarceration in January, raises serious questions both as regards respect for freedom of expression and due process of law, says the statement of the European Actions Service.
“Mr Huseynov is known in Azerbaijan for his efforts to expose corruption. On the face of it, his sentence appears clearly disproportionate to the alleged crime. Reports of his irregular arrest, alleged ill-treatment, and irregularities in the subsequent court proceeding that ended in his conviction are of equally serious concern and should be immediately investigated. Mr Huseynov should be a witness in a credible and independent investigation of these allegations, seeking accountability for the perpetrators, as appropriate, not in jail.”
“Respect for freedom of expression is vital in any democratic society. The European Union expects Azerbaijan to respect its international commitments both as regards fundamental freedoms and due process”.
Accroding to Freedom House, Azerbaijan’s media environment has continually deteriorated in recent years as a result of a government campaign to silence criticism and dissent. The authorities use spurious charges and investigations to imprison prominent journalists, bloggers, and freedom of expression advocates. Violence against journalists has become common, and perpetrators generally enjoy impunity.