New York, June 16, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged by the police beating of Emin Huseynov, head of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), in Baku, Azerbaijan, on June 14.
Huseynov was covering an event for the 80th birthday of slain Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara. Policed raided the event and took Huseynov to a police station where he was isolated, interrogated, threatened, and beaten. He was hospitalized after losing consciousness from having been repeatedly hit in the head with fists and guns, and remains in the critical care unit of the Emergency Medical Service Hospital in Baku, he told CPJ.
“We are appalled by this brazen attack on our colleague Emin Huseynov,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “We call on the highest authorities in Azerbaijan to investigate this incident and bring those responsible to justice.”
About 25 people had organized a documentary screening and a talk to celebrate Che at Alaturka cafe in Baku. Several journalists, including Huseynov, were covering the event, IRFS Public Relations Coordinator Sarah Paulsworth told CPJ. About 30 police officers raided the cafe at midday and detained about 20 people, including Huseynov and two other IRFS representatives, Huseynov told CPJ by telephone from his hospital bed. All were taken to Police Department No. 22 in the Nasimi District of Baku, according to Huseynov and local news reports.
Officers took Huseynov to a separate room, he said. He was isolated from the group when police saw that he had been reporting information about his detention to his colleagues over his cell phone. Huseynov said that officers twisted his arms and hit him with guns on his head and neck. He said that the officer in charge threatened: “I’ll arrest you, I’ll kill you, I’ll bury you.” One of Huseynov’s colleagues also detained at the police station, Rasim Aliyev, could also hear the commotion and threats from outside the door, the IRFS reported after the incident.
CPJ contacted Police Department No. 22 for comment and reached Officer Seynul Rostu. Rostu told CPJ that “no beating took place. [Emin Huseynov] went to the hospital by himself.” When CPJ asked how Huseynov sustained a serious concussion when there was no beating, Rostu said: “There is no brain concussion. Huseynov is a slanderer.”
The official medical analysis of Huseynov’s condition now says he lost consciousness because of hyperactive nerves, the journalist told CPJ. But Dr. Galib Ibrahimov, who examined Huseynov, told the IRFS that Huseynov had sustained a brain concussion. Huseynov still experiences severe headaches and nausea, and cannot walk by himself, Paulsworth told CPJ.
Just two days prior, on June 12, Huseynov told CPJ he was detained and interrogated for three hours by security officers when he was covering an anti-government rally in front of the Presidential Administration building in Baku. Three officers confiscated his passport, deleted the photos he took at the rally, and questioned him about his organization, its activities and sources of funding, he said.
CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information visit www.cpj.org.