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Azerbaijan contests release of dissenting journalist

Amnesty International has reiterated its call for the immediate release of an Azerbaijani journalist jailed on fabricated charges after the country's authorities made a last-minute move against a European Court of Human Rights judgment ordering for him to be freed. The April ruling, which stated there was "no justification" for Eynulla Fatullayev’s prison sentence, would have become final on Thursday after a three-month period during which Azerbaijan could contest it.  However, one day before the 22 July deadline, Azerbaijan's government requested that the case be referred to the European Court's Grand Chamber. During the three-month period before the deadline, Azerbaijan tried Eynulla Fatullayev on another set of charges and on 6 July, He was convicted and sentenced to a further two and a half years’ imprisonment for possession of drugs.Amnesty International believes these charges were fabricated in order to keep him in prison despite the European Court ruling."The Azerbaijani government has sought to ensure that, whatever the final judgment of the European Court, Eynulla Fatullayev will be kept silent, behind bars on a new set of charges,” said Andrea Huber, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia deputy director.“It is striking that Eynulla Fatullayev’s fight for his rights at the European Court of Human Rights,apparently made him a target for yet another set of charges.”The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, expressed concern about the latest conviction and called on Azerbaijan to comply with the European Court's ruling to release Eynulla Fatullayev.Five judges from the European Court's Grand Chamber will now consider whether to re-open Eynulla Fatullayev's case, but there is no deadline for the decision or a possible subsequent hearing.Eynulla Fatullayev was jailed in April 2007 after writing a series of newspaper articles critical of the authorities.He was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison on trumped up charges of terrorism, defamation, incitement to racial hatred and tax evasion, all of which were quashed by the European Court in April.“Eynulla Fatullayev's continued incarceration is an affront to freedom of expression - he must be immediately released and all of the fabricated charges against him dropped,” Huber said.