ODIHR Director voices alarm over alleged abduction, ill-treatment of Azerbaijani journalist

Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, today expressed profound concern over the alleged abduction and ill-treatment in custody of Azerbaijani journalist and human rights defender Afgan Mukhtarli.

“The allegations of the ill-treatment of Afgan Mukhtarli and the circumstances of his return to Azerbaijan should be thoroughly investigated to establish the facts of his case, and should be duly considered in judicial review,” the ODIHR Director said. “Any identified abuses of power or criminal actions by law-enforcement authorities should be investigated, and anyone responsible for such actions should be held legally responsible.”

On 31 May 2017, a court in Baku ordered Mukhtarli to be held in pre-trial detention for three months, on charges of illegal border crossing, smuggling and violence against police authorities.  According to his lawyer, Mukhtarli was abducted on 29 May 2017 near his home in Tbilisi, Georgia, and then forcibly transferred to Azerbaijan after those involved in the abduction planted 10,000 euros in his pockets. The lawyer also said his client was subjected to ill-treatment during the abduction, and showed visible signs of injuries once in the custody of the Azerbaijani authorities.

“ODIHR will continue to follow this exceptional case,” Director Link said. “If the criminal charges against Afgan Mukhtarli are shown to be based on contrived evidence, or actions compelled under duress or ill-treatment, the authorities must swiftly drop the case against him and release him.”

In Ljubljana (2005) and Brussels (2006), the OSCE participating States committed to uphold the rule of law and due process in the criminal justice system, based on respect for the internationally recognized human rights to a fair trial, an effective remedy, and not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.

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