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Azerbaijan denies Fatullayev's appeal, defies ECHR ruling

Fatullayev (IRFS)

New York, February 1, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged that the Baku Appeals Court has rejected imprisoned editor Eynulla Fatullayev's latest appeal and continues to defy a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that called for his release.

On January 25, the court denied Fatullayev's appeal of his July conviction on a trumped-up charge of drug possession, the independent Caucasus news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported. His lawyers will contest the ruling at Azerbaijan's Supreme Court, and file a new case at the European court, his father, Emin Fatullayev, told CPJ.

In two rulings, issued in March and October, the Strasbourg-based ECHR declared Fatullayev's imprisonment illegal, ordered the Azerbaijani government to release him immediately and to pay him 27,822 Euros (US$38,481) in compensation. 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. Azerbaijan's Supreme Court ruled in November that the country will uphold the ECHR decision but have failed to do so.

Also, Fatullayev's family has been unable to access the court-ordered compensation, the editor's father, Emin Fatullayev, told CPJ. The government declared in early January that it has been paid, but authorities wired the money to the journalist's (instead of the father's) bank account, which has been frozen by court order since his arrest in April 2007.

"We call on Azerbaijan's Supreme Court to uphold Eynulla Fatullayev's appeal," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "We call on the authorities in Baku to heed the ruling of the ECHR, release Fatullayev, and pay the compensation owed to the journalist's family."

Fatullayev, editor of two now-closed newspapers and a 2009 recipient of CPJ's International Press Freedom Award, was jailed in April 2007 on a number of charges, including libel, terrorism, tax evasion, and incitement to hatred. Anticipating the ECHR ruling, authorities declared in December 2009 they had found heroin in Fatullayev's cell, and sentenced him to additional two and a half years of a strict-regime prison term in July 2010. 

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