New York, April 8, 2009--A district court in Baku has sentenced Asif Marzili, editor-in-chief of the independent weekly Tezadlar, to one year in prison on charges of defaming managers and professors of Azerbaijan International University, the Azeri Press Agency reported. Ruling on Tuesday, the court also handed down a six-month suspended corrective labor sentence to Tezadlar freelancer Zumrud Mammedova in the same case.
In an unusual development, presidential spokesman Ali Hasanov told local journalists today that President Ilham Aliyev disapproved of the prison sentence given to Marzili. Aliyev, who met today with delegations from the European Union and the Council of Europe, believes disputes about press coverage should be settled in accordance with international practice, the spokesman told the Azeri Press Agency.
Imprisonment on defamation charges does not conform to international
standards. With five
other editors and reporters in jail,
"We welcome President Aliyev's statement on the case of Asif
Marzili and call on Azerbaijani authorities to end the practice of criminal prosecution
and imprisonment of journalists," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program
Elshad Abdullayev, rector of
Huseynov said the court ruling came as a surprise for Marzili, who had informed him just before the court hearing that he and Abdullayev were about to settle the case.