New York, November 15, 2010--While the Azerbaijani Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the country will uphold the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights decision to immediately release editor Eynulla Fatullayev
, he remains in jail. The Committee to Protect Journalists called today for his immediate release.
A November 5 decision by the Baku Appeals Court said the editor must remain in custody while he appeals an ancillary drug conviction, regardless of the European Court's March ruling, defense lawyer Elchin Sadygov said.
"We call on Azerbaijani authorities to fulfill their
international obligations and release imprisoned editor Eynulla Fatullayev at
once," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina
Ognianova said. "No one is fooled by these stalling tactics.
The Baku Appeals Court's latest ruling to keep our colleague in jail pending
the outcome of the drug case was blatantly tailored to defy the European
As a member of the Council of Europe and a signatory to the
European Convention on Human Rights, Azerbaijan is obligated to fulfill European Court decisions.
The European Court
that Azerbaijani authorities had violated Fatullayev's rights to freedom of
expression and a fair trial; declared his imprisonment illegal; and ordered
that he be freed and paid 27,822
Euros (US$37,854) in compensation. On October
4, the European Court's
Grand Chamber rejected Azerbaijan's
appeal and upheld the March ruling.
Fatullayev was initially arrested
in April 2007 on a trumped up charge of defaming Azerbaijanis in an
Internet posting that he said he did not write. In the next several months,
authorities piled up new fabricated charges against him, including "terrorism,"
"incitement of hatred," and "tax evasion." In October 2007, Fatullayev was slammed
with a hefty cumulative sentence of eight-and-a-half years in prison. His
popular newspapers, the Azeri-language daily Gündalik Azarbaycan and
the Russian-language weekly Realny Azerbaijan, folded.
December 2009, just as the European
Court was wrapping up deliberations on the Fatullayev v. Azerbaijan case, Baku prison guards
allegedly found narcotics on Fatullayev. He was charged with possession and sentenced
in July to an additional two and a half years and remains jailed while he
appeals, according to local news reports. Fatullayev denies the charge, saying
the drugs were planted on him--a favored
tactic of Azerbaijani authorities to silence unwanted critics--with the
deliberate intention to keep him in jail no matter what the European Court ruled in his case.
On November 24, 2009, CPJ honored
Fatullayev with one of its International Press Freedom Awards.