Azerbaijani photojournalist sentenced to two years’ imprisonment

Mehman Huseynov was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment after he complained of having been tortured by police. Human Rights House Foundation calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

“Mehman Huseynov has been sentenced to two years imprisonment because he dared to say in Azerbaijan, that as a photojournalist, as a blogger, as a human rights defender, he should not be tortured, he should not be arrested, and in fact he should be free to do his work”, Florian Irminger, HRHF’s Head of Advocacy, commented during a Facebook Live session at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

On 3 March, Mehman Huseynov, chairperson of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), photojournalist and blogger, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment on the charges of defamation. Background for the case is that on 9 January, Mehman Huseynov, was pushed into an unmarked vehicle in Baku by unidentified assailants in civilian clothing. The following day he appeared in court where he was sentenced to a fine of 200AZN (around 100EUR) for “disobeying the police”. The Nasimi district chief of police filed a complaint for defamation following reports from Mehman Huseynov that he had been tortured while in police custody in January.

This sentence comes a day after Mehman Huseynov spoke at a commemorative event marking the killing of journalist Elmar Huseynov, founder and chief editor of weekly “Monitor”, and two days after Mehman Huseynov published a video where he interviewed people in Azerbaijan related to the nomination of the President’s wife to the position of first Vice-President, following the constitutional reform significantly increasing presidential powers.

Florian Irminger urges Azerbaijan to demonstrate “that they are actually not going along the path of an increasingly authoritarian state, that this was a mistake this morning, the courts will correct it, Mehman Huseynov has to be release immediately and unconditionally, he has to have compensation for torture and ill-treatment, and that those who are responsible for torture and ill-treatment, regardless of their position, have to be brought to justice”.

In its intervention at the Human Rights Council, HRHF detailed Mehman Huseynov’s case, and called for his immediate release during a session in which the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Michel Forst, presented his report on Azerbaijan

HRHF described Mehman Huseynov’s case as “emblematic of the abusive and arbitrary methods used to punish and attempt to silence human rights defenders, journalists and activists. The path followed by Azerbaijan can now be reported as “increasingly authoritarian”, as underlined by the Special Rapporteur in his report, and urged that the international community “must act, given the continued and increased repression against human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers in Azerbaijan. This dire human rights situation in Azerbaijan deserves the highest attention and action at the Human Rights Council.”

The authorities in Azerbaijan have consistently targeted Mehman Huseynov, his family, and the IRFS for several years. He was first arrested in 2012, and since then has been regularly interrogated by authorities, who have confiscated his official documents and imposed a travel ban on him. On 10 September, 2016, he was taken to a police station and interrogated and threatened with torture.

In November 2016, he was elected as IRFS’s new chairman. The previous chairman of IRFS, journalist Rasim Aliyev, died after being violently attacked in August 2015 in Baku. Prior to Rasim Aliyev, Emin Huseynov, Mehman’s brother, was President of IRFS. He was forced into hiding and to leave Azerbaijan. As well as the harassment of its leaders, the IRFS has also suffered from the administrative blocking of the organisation from being able to operate in the country.

Mehman Huseynov is a well-known Azerbaijani photojournalist and blogger who has been pivotal in raising awareness of political and social problems in Azerbaijan. In his recent series of video reports for news and media company Sancaq, called “Hunt for Corrupt Officials,” he documented corruption in the high echelons of Azerbaijan’s ruling establishment.

Documents:

Latest

July 6, 2018

No justice for Mehman Huseynov

Since anti-corruption blogger Mehman Huseynov was sentenced for defamation in March 2017, HRHF has been asking, “when will he find justice?”. With his appeals inside the country now exhausted, we see once again that little justice can be found for human rights defenders in Azerbaijan.

July 3, 2018

HRHF statement on Ukraine at HRC38

Human Rights House Foundation delivered the following statement on Ukraine to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC38). This statement enjoys the support of four Ukrainian human rights organisations.

July 2, 2018

Assembly and association “enable rights”

UN Special Rapporteur Clément Voule introduces his aims and priorities for freedom of assembly and association mandate, and discusses cooperation with civil society, in an interview with HRHF on the sidelines of HRC38.