Azerbaijan arrests two journalists investigating political corruption

The arrests of the director and editor-in-chief of Abzas Media come after a series of reports regarding the assets of officials.

According to their lawyers, two journalists were arrested in Azerbaijan after their media recently published a series of reports on the assets of senior government officials and the family of President Ilham Aliyev.

Sevinj Vagifgyzy, editor-in-chief of privately held Abzas Media, was arrested and her home searched on Tuesday, her lawyer and Abzas Media said.

A day earlier, police also arrested Ulvi Hasanli, director of the same media, on charges of “foreign currency smuggling.”

Hasanli has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, for which he could face 12 years in prison, said his lawyer Zibeyda Sadygova.

Abzas Media reported that Hasanli faced “inhumane treatment” in custody, including punches and kicks by officers who asked him about corruption investigations he was conducting.

Meanwhile, police also stormed a media office in Baku and kicked out journalists trying to document the search from outside, footage from Abvas Media to introduce.

Abzas Media is one of the few independent media outlets left in Azerbaijan after a nearly decade-long campaign against independent media and press rights groups, the Committee to Protect Journalists he said.

Suppressing dissent

Natalia Nozadze, a researcher on the South Caucasus with the rights group Amnesty International, said Hasanli’s arrest “is part of a pattern of authorities arresting critics to suppress their dissent.”

She said Hasanli “courageously exposed allegations of high-level corruption in Azerbaijan and discussed critical issues of public interest” and that he had “faced repeated government persecution” in the past.

Signs of dissent are often met with a harsh government response in Azerbaijan, an energy-rich country long ruled by the Aliyev dynasty.

In July, Azerbaijan arrested renowned political economist and civic activist Gubadoghlu on various financial crimes charges, which he denied.

He said his prosecution was in retaliation for exposing high-level corruption in Azerbaijan.

Amnesty International said Ibadoghlu has serious health problems and his life is at risk “due to unsafe prison conditions and the denial of adequate health care.”

Aliyev’s government, which has ruled the country with an iron fist since 2003 after succeeding his father Heydar, has long faced international criticism over the country’s poor democratic record.


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