Amnesty International Starts Campaign in Defense of Mehman Aliyev

Baku /31.08.17/ Turan: The international human rights organization Amnesty International condemned the arrest of the director of the independent news agency Turan, Mehman Aliyev.

The statement says that Mehman Aliyev, the director of the independent news agency Turan, has been arbitrarily detained since 24 August on what appears to be trumped up charges of tax evasion and other offenses in retaliation for his work as a critical journalist. The charges against him follow the same pattern used to silence government critics in Azerbaijan in recent years.

On 24 August Mehman Aliyev was summoned for questioning at the Ministry of Taxes as a witness in the criminal investigation launched earlier this month against Turan agency into alleged tax avoidance. When Mehman Aliyev arrived at the Ministry for questioning with his lawyer, the officials informed him that his status has changed from a witness to a suspect and refused to allow his lawyer to attend the questioning, claiming that he now needed to obtain special permission to represent his client. He was detained following the questioning without access to his lawyer. On 25 August the court remanded Mehman Aliyev to three months in detention on charges of tax evasion, abuse of office, and illegal entrepreneurship.

The charges relate to accusations made by the authorities that Mehman Aliyev abused his powers as director of Turan agency by failing to register all grants and to pay appropriate taxes on them. In particular tax authorities allege that Mehman Aliyev earned illegal profits by failing to register grants in the amount of 148,310 AZN (US$87,260) received from 2010 to 2014, and underpaying the taxes in the amount of AZN 60,080 (US$35,350) from 2010 to 2016. Mehman Aliyev denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that his agency paid all due taxes in time and that the recent audit by the tax authorities had exonerated Turan in response to similar allegations. He had referred the matter to a Baku Economic Administrative court alleging shortcomings and irregularities in the investigation.

Turan news agency is effectively the last remaining independent media outlet still operating within Azerbaijan. Since 1990 Turan has covered important sensitive subjects in the political economic and social sphere in English, Russian and Azeri. The nature of the charges, as well as the criminal proceedings, appear to be designed to put pressure on the news agency in retaliation for their critical reporting. Amnesty International has documented in detail how government critics were imprisoned by the arbitrary application of the charges relating to illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion and abuse of office steaming from lack of grant registration. While registration and taxing of grants in Azerbaijan only became mandatory in February 2014 when legislative amendments entered into force, authorities continue to apply those requirements retroactively to prosecute critics.

Amnesty International called for sending e-mails to President Ilham Aliyev with an appeal to release Mehman Aliyev.

The appeal notes that the charges against Mehman Aliyev appear to be politically motivated and because of serious violations of fair trial standards during his arrest and arbitrary detention;

Amnesty International calls to fully respect the right to freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, which involves ensuring that human rights defenders and journalists can carry out their legitimate activities free of harassment and without fear of reprisals. -06D-

Leave a review


Follow us on social networks

News Line