Appeal to Local and International Community in Connection with Arrest of Turan News Agency's Director Mehman Aliyev

Given the worsening social and economic situation in Azerbaijan, the authorities of the country, instead of pursuing political and economic reforms, continue their efforts to further strengthen authoritarianism. Citizens are arrested on trumped-up charges for their different and independent views and critical opinions. Currently, there are more than 160 people imprisoned for political reasons in Azerbaijan. According to the number of political prisoners and "prisoners of conscience," Azerbaijan is one of the leaders in Europe.

Restricting freedom of speech, expression, conscience, the press and other rights and freedoms, eliminating the atmosphere of equal political competition in Azerbaijan contributes to the decline of the country's authority among the world's nations, worsens its international image and weakens the state.

With regret, we must state that the authorities use illegal arrests as an instrument of repression to preserve their existence. Only from the beginning of 2017, about 20 public activists, journalists, bloggers and believers have been arrested for political reasons. Under strange circumstances, the political prisoner Mehman Galandarov died in the Baku pretrial detention center.

Following the arrests of the blogger Mehman Huseynov, the journalists Aziz Orujov and Afgan Mukhtarli, and the deputy chairman of the Popular Front Party Gezal Bayramli on fabricated charges, the director of Turan News Agency Mehman Aliyev was also prosecuted.

He is charged under articles 213.1 (evasion from tax payment), 308.1 (abuse of office) and 192.2.2 (illegal entrepreneurship with a large income) of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan. By the decision of the Yasamal District Court's judge Azer Taghiyev, on August 25, 2017, Mehman Aliyev was arrested as a measure of restraint until November 7.

The news agency Turan established in 1990 is the first and last independent news agency in Azerbaijan. The agency distributes news in three languages ​​and is the most objective and reliable source of information in the country.

The arrest selected as a measure of restraint in respect of Mehman Aliyev pursues the aim of his punishment by isolating him from society. If this were not the case, alternative measures of restraint would be chosen against him, and Mehman Aliyev would thus be able to exercise his right to defense normally.

Even if the charges put forward to him correspond to the reality, all the same there was no need for the choice of arrest as a preventive measure. The statement that Mehman Aliyev could hide from the investigation is absurd, since he always timely came to the investigation bodies when called.

We believe the repressive policy pursued by the authorities to suppress critical voices and eliminate the free press and independent civil society should be stopped.

We demand the Azerbaijani authorities comply with the Constitution and laws of the country, international legal norms and obligations to international institutions, and turn to really democratic development and provision of fundamental rights and freedoms.

Mehman Aliyev and other political prisoners should be released without any preconditions.

We call on supporters of free and democratic development of Azerbaijan, as well as all other citizens, to active struggle against the rampant lawlessness, arbitrariness and repression in the country.

We call on political parties, representatives of civil society, media and human rights organizations to contribute to this struggle.

We call upon the nations that have chosen the development of democracy in the world as their foreign policy priorities, as well as international institutions, to take effective measures to resolve the problem with political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

August 31, 2017

The appeal was adopted at the meeting of the public committee Freedom to Mehman Aliyev!, held with the support of the Political Prisoners' Defense Center.

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