Afgan Mukhtarli: "They told me the Georgian government took a bribe to kidnap me”
Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, who was abducted in Georgia in May 2017 and ended up in an Azerbaijani prison, was unexpectedly released on March 17.
In an interview with the independent Azerbaijani publication Meydan, Mukhtarli spoke about the circumstances of his abduction.
Afghan Mukhtarli disappeared in Tbilisi on May 29, 2017.
In 2015, he settled in the Georgian capital with his wife, journalist Leyla Mustafayeva, and his young daughter, fleeing persecution from the Azerbaijani government.
The next day, it turned out that Mukhtarli was in Baku and was accused of illegally crossing the border, smuggling and resisting the police. The journalist himself then stated that he had been abducted in the center of Tbilisi.
He was later sentenced to six years in prison.
On March 17, 2020, Mukhtarli was unexpectedly released from prison and immediately sent to Germany. He was not even permitted to meet with relatives in Azerbaijan.
The journalist himself says that the authorities only changed his sentence from prison to exile.
“In Azerbaijan, I wrote about corrupt families in power in various ministries, and embezzlement in the armed forces. And in Georgia I also practiced investigative journalism and wrote about how the Azerbaijani authorities stole money from the Azerbaijani people and invested it in Georgia,” Mukhtarli said.
He says these articles were a serious concern for both the Azerbaijani and Georgian sides.
Mukhtarli says that he expected the Georgian authorities would extradite him to Azerbaijan, but thought that this would be done through the court system.
However, he added that in Azerbaijan, apparently, they believe that the Georgian judicial system is not yet completely controlled by the authorities, and decided to try a different approach.
“During a meeting I had with several senior officials in Azerbaijan, they said that the Georgian government received a bribe of more than three million dollars. Allegedly, this was done by the former leadership of the Ministry of National Security.
But in any case, this is the work of the Azerbaijani government. Such decisions are made not by any minister, but by Ilham Aliyev himself.”
Recounting the day he was abducted, he says that on May 29, 2017 he left the cafe and went home. When he was 50-60 meters from his house, a car blocked his way, and three men got out and attacked him.
“At first I fought back. They could not put me in the car. Then I saw that they were wearing Georgian Criminal Police uniforms and decided that they would take me to the police department, and then to the court. Since I did not commit any crime in either Azerbaijan or Georgia, I was sure that the Georgian court would release me.
I did not expect to be kidnapped and transferred to Azerbaijan. And so I voluntarily got into the car.”
International human rights organizations consider Afghanistan Mukhtarly a prisoner of conscience.
In June 2017, the European Parliament called on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately release the journalist and drop all charges.
Produced with the support of Russian Language News Exchange