The FINANCIAL -- Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights, Council of Europe : “I am appalled by what happened to Afgan Mukhtarli, an Azerbaijani journalist and activist, who has reportedly been abducted in Georgia and forcibly taken to Azerbaijan, where he is now facing prosecution for illegal crossing of the border and smuggling. Mr. Mukhtarli had been living in Georgia since 2015, when he left Azerbaijan to escape the government’s repression of critical voices.
According to his lawyer, Mr Mukhtarli affirms that money was put in his pocket by his abductors and alleges that they also ill-treated him. These are very serious allegations that require the utmost attention and urgent reaction by the Georgian authorities, which should carry out an effective, rapid and independent investigation into the events and take the necessary measures to act upon the results of the enquiry. In the meantime, Azerbaijan’s authorities must release Mr Mukhtarli without delay and ensure that he fully enjoys his human rights, including the protection from torture and ill-treatment”.
Freelance Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was reported missing in Tbilisi, Georgia on the evening of 29 May 2017 by his wife Leyla Mustafayeva. Eurasianet reported that Mustafayeva said that her husband last called her when he was just a few blocks away from their home, but he never showed up. The Georgian police stated on 30 May that a search was underway for the journalist, but later, the independent Azeri news agency Turan reported that the Azerbaijani border service department detained Mukhtarli.
Independent investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova confirmed that Mukhtarli was kidnapped from his neighbourhood where he was forced into a car, his hands were tied and he was beaten. Mukhtarli sustained serious injuries. His lawyer, Elchin Sadigov, told the Committee for the Protection of Journalists: “He was beaten, has a broken nose, bruises all over his head and right eye, his rib may be broken.” He was then taken across the border into Azerbaijan by car without his passport.
Mukhtarli is being charged with trespassing, smuggling and resistance to law-enforcement (violations of Articles 318.1, 206.1 and 315.2 of the criminal code), his lawyer confirmed. The Azerbaijani police also claim Mukhtarli was in possession of 10,000 EUR during the police search. Mukhtarli, who has contributed to various independent outlets, including Meydan TV, fled to Georgia from Azerbaijan in 2015, after receiving threats over his investigative reporting on corruption in the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry. Afgan Mukhtarli is now in pre-trial detention.
Georgian Government has not answered on alert over Mukhtarli case published by Council of Europe
Independent Association of Georgian Journalists, member of IFJ, urged Georgian Government to take all possible measures in order to protect journalists in Georgia. IAGJ said authorities of Azerbaijan must free Afqan Mukhtarli immediatelly.
IAGJ called Georgian Government make public details of Mukhtarli's disappearance and forceful return to Azerbaijan, and take all measures to ensure that other journalists in the country are safe.
"Azerbaijan is the strategic partner of Georgia and has great influence over Georgian society. Azeri community is widely represented in Georgia and it's very important for us to know that Azerbaijan respects freedom pf expression and rights of media", said Zviad Pochkhua, IAGJ President.
"Arrest of Afqan Mukhtarli damages Georgia and Azerbaijan equally. Trust towards governments of Georgia and Azerbaijan now are questioned. Authorities need to respond adequately to questions raised," said Pochkhua.