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Human rights organizations defend Azerbaijani journalist Rauf Mirkadirov who is accused of espionage

Azerbaijan’s jailing of the prominent independent journalist Rauf Mirkadirov after his summary forcible return from Turkey bears the hallmarks of a coordinated operation that violates international law, reads the statement of the Human Rights Watch which can be found on the site of the organization.

HRW believes that the forcible return of the journalists to Azerbaijan without allowing him access to a lawyer or basic due process protections is violation of international legal obligations of Turkey.

Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch noted that the possible coordination between Turkey and Azerbaijan should be immediately and thoroughly investigated. "Mirkadirov should be released pending an independent review of the charges against him,” she said.

According to Denber Turkish officials brazenly snatched Mirkadirov up without cause, and unlawfully returned him to Azerbaijan. "These shameless violations should be investigated and those responsible should be held to account,” the HRW representative stated.

Mirkadirov reported on political developments and key human rights issues in Azerbaijan and Turkey and often criticized the deteriorating political and human rights situations in both countries. In addition, Mirkadirov had been involved in "second track diplomacy” between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Mirkadirov’s arrest comes just few weeks before Azerbaijan assumes the rotating chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers. According to HRW since joining Europe’s foremost human rights body in January 2001, Azerbaijan has failed to meet many of the accession commitments. In the past year alone, Azerbaijani authorities have arrested dozens of political activists, bloggers, and others on trumped up or politically motivated charges in what appears to be a concerted effort to silence government’s critics. At least nine journalists and four Facebook activists are in jail on various trumped up charges.

"The context and timing of Mirgadirov’s arrest suggest that the case against him is politically motivated and intended to punish him for his outspoken views and to send a chilling message to others that dissent will not be tolerated,” Rachel Denber said.

Summing up she said that the Council of Europe and its member states need to call on Azerbaijan to release Mirkadirov, and to press Azerbaijan and Turkey to uphold their rights obligations.

Human rights organization Freedom House too expressed its grave concern for the fate of the deported Azerbaijani journalist Rauf Mirkadyrov who was charged with espionage.

"The circumstances of Turkey’s decision to deport the journalist Raul Mirkadirov and his immediate arrest in Azerbaijan are highly suspicious, coming shortly after a visit by Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan to Baku. The governments of both Turkey and Azerbaijan are obligated to ensure Mr. Mirkadirov's safety, and the charges against him should be dropped,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House.

At the briefing held at yesterday Spokesperson Jen Psaki has also commented the arrest of Rauf Mirkadirov. She noted that the U.S. watches his case closely.

"We are also disturbed by allegations that his arrest may have been connected with his critical reporting about the Azerbaijani Government or his participation in people-to-people programs aimed at easing tensions and building confidence in the region,” said Psaki.

Rauf Mirkadirov, columnist of Azerbaijani newspaper "Zerkalo", was arrested on April 18 in Ankara on charges of expiration of documents. On April 19 Mirkadirov was deported to Azerbaijan, where he immediately was arrested and put in custody by the MNS on suspicion of treason. On April 21 the court in Baku sanctioned his arrest for three months. Mirkadirov is accused of the cooperation with special services of Armenia, specifically, he is accused of making the transfers of the state secret information, including those about the dislocation of Azerbaijani Armed forces to Armenia during 2008-2009.



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