Azeri journalist abducted in Georgia, put in custody in Azerbaijan

Claudine Rigal
Mai 31, 2017

Afgan Mukhtarli, whose wife reported him missing on May 29 evening, is now known to be in the custody of the Investigative Unit of the State Border Service of Azerbaijan, the Amnesty International said, citing local activists and Mukhtarli's lawyer.

They then changed cars twice before taking Muxtarli across the border to Azerbaijan, Sadyqov said.

"He was taken to Azerbaijan, but without passport", the journalists' wife Leila Mustafayeva told Public Radio of Armenia. In the lawyer's words, Mukhtarli was abducted in Tbilisi by plain-clothed men who spoke Georgian. "I don't know how the Georgian authorities and the state border services allowed it. Shame on the Georgian government, because they thus sacrifice the freedom of speech", she said.

Azerbaijani authorities are accusing Mukhtarli of crossing the border illegally in possession of €10,000 ($11,200) in illegal money, which Mukhtarli's lawyer claims was planted on him. His attorney has already met him, and said that his client has bruised on his face.

"The Georgian government should tell Azerbaijan and Turkey that we are strategic partners, when it comes to energy and transport projects, transnational programs, but we are not partners in violating human rights", he added.

Amnesty International has called the case a part of a "deeply sinister development in a country known for its long crackdown on journalists and human rights defenders", labeling Mukhtarli a prisoner of conscience detained exclusively for his work as a journalist. The government has opened an official criminal investigation into Mukhtarli's disappearance. He participated in a demonstration in front of Azerbaijan's embassy in Tbilisi on 18 November with several Azerbaijani activists, including Mehman Galandarov, who was found dead in Baku Detention Centre on 28 April.

Mukhtarli and Mustafayeva were criticized along with several other exiled Azeri activists in a May 4, 2017 article published on Haqqin, a pro-government Azerbaijani news website that portrayed Tbilisi as a nest of anti-Azerbaijani subversion.

Georgia's Interior Ministry said it had launched an investigation into the illegal abduction of the Azeri journalist. "Can the Georgian authorities please explain how a man crossed an global border with no identification documents on him?" asked Mukhtarli's wife, Leyla Mustafayeva, holding up the 43-year-old reporter's passport at the rally of media and rights-activists outside of Georgia's main government building. Some Azeri activists were denied political asylum in Georgia, according to the JAMnews report.

"Another human rights defender Dashgin Agalarli risks being sent to Azerbaijan, unless he leaves Georgia in the coming days".

Leyla Mustafayeva blames the Georgian authorities for her husband's disappearance, claiming that it is the government's responsibility to provide safety for people residing in Georgia.

The statement said Georgia is in communication with the Azerbaijani side regarding the case and "as soon as the factual circumstances are established, the public will be provided with detailed information".

Mukhtarli, who has contributed to the Berlin-based independent news outlet Meydan TV and the London-based Institute of War and Peace Reporting, fled to Georgia from Azerbaijan in 2014 after receiving threats over his investigative reporting on corruption in the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry.

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