Azerbaijan urged to release journalist after court revokes charges

Amnesty International has urged the Azerbaijani authorities to release a journalist who, despite a Supreme Court ruling this week revoking fabricated charges against him, remains in prison on a new set of apparently trumped-up charges. The Court in the capital Baku on Thursday revoked charges against Eynulla Fatullayev of defamation, terrorism, and incitement to racial hatred, in line with a European Court of Human Rights ruling in April that he be freed.The court also ruled that Fatullayev, who was jailed in 2007, had served a concurrent prison term for tax evasion.However, Fatullayev, who Amnesty International considers to be a prisoner of conscience, remains in prison on a separate conviction for drugs possession for which he was sentenced to two and half years in July.”By sentencing Eynulla Fatullayev to a further prison term three months after the European Court ruling was made, Azerbaijan has clearly sought to side-step the Court’s judgment,” said John Dalhuisen of Amnesty International.”The authorities’ blatant manoeuvring shows how desperate they are to keep a prominent critic of the government behind bars. Eynulla Fatullayev must be released immediately.”In April this year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Fatullayev should be freed as Azerbaijan had violated his rights to freedom of expression and a fair trial.The ruling would have become final on 22 July after a three-month period during which Azerbaijan could contest it.However, one day before the deadline, Azerbaijan’s government requested that the case be referred to the European Court’s Grand Chamber. The Grand Chamber rejected their request on 4 October, resulting in the judgment becoming final.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.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.