Matthew Miller

Matthew Miller

The State Department on Monday reacted to the latest police raid on an independent news outlet in Azerbaijan, AbzasMedia, and the arrest of its director, former political prisoner Ulvi Hasanli.

"We are deeply troubled by the reported arrest of journalist Ulvi Hasanli and the allegations of physical abuse in custody,"  Spokesperson Matthew Miller told TURAN's Washington correspondent.

"We urge the Azerbaijani government to protect the rights and freedoms of all, including freedom of expression," Miller added.

Hasanli was reportedly detained Monday morning outside Baku hours before police claimed to have found $44,000 (40,000 euros -ed.) in cash during their search of AbzasMedia’ offices. He later was brought to the media outlet's office as it was searched, and reportedly told his colleagues that he was punched in the face while in the detention center, and was subjected to physical abuse.

According to Amnesty International, Hasanli, who was an activist with NIDA Civic Union in the late 2010s, has faced repeated harassment from the government. In 2018, he was conscripted for military service and deployed to the conflict zone despite being in ill-health. In 2021, he was briefly detained over his work as an investigative journalist.

In 2022, he was one of three journalists who appealed against legislation obliging all media outlets to register with the state media registry under the threat of closure. He also reported on the so-called Soyudlu protests in June 2023, during which Azerbaijani police detained, beat, threatened, or obstructed the work of at least six journalists, including Hasanli.

“As director of Abzas Media, Ulvi Hasanli has bravely exposed allegations of high-level corruption in Azerbaijan and covered critical issues of public interest," Natalia Nozadze, Amnesty International’s South Caucasus Researcher, said on Monday.

“We are deeply concerned about the reports that Ulvi Hasanli was beaten or otherwise ill-treated in detention. The Azerbaijani authorities must immediately disclose his whereabouts and legal status and ensure he has immediate access to a lawyer of his choice. The arrest of Ulvi Hasanli fits into a pattern of critics being arrested by the authorities to stifle their dissent. Unless the authorities bring an internationally recognisable criminal charge against Ulvi Hasanli, and this is substantiated by credible evidence, he should be immediately released,” Nozadze added.

Hasanli’s detention follows the arrest of economist Gubad Ibadoghlu, who has been in jail since July on trumped up charges in retaliation for exposing high-level corruption in Azerbaijan.

 

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