All tax sanctions imposed on Turan news agency cancelled
On 16 September, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Taxes lifted its tax sanctions which it had previously imposed on the country’s oldest news agency, Turan. The sanctions were for the period of 2014-2015 in the amount of AZN 37 000 (about USD 22 000).
As the Ministry’s Local Taxes Department reported in an official letter, the decision was made based on the results of investigations that were done.
On 7 August, the Tax Ministry opened a criminal case against the Turan news agency over tax evasion, and the news agency’s office was searched on 15 August. All financial documents, as well as data storage devices and journalists’ personal items were seized during the search.
On 24 August, Mehman Aliyev, the Director of the Turan news agency, was charged under three articles of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan: illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion and abuse of official powers. The court sentenced the journalist to a 3-month pre-trial detention.
The news agency suspended operations from 1 September, publishing only breaking news on its website.
Many local and international human rights organizations and public figures stood up for the Turan news agency and its director.
On 11 September, the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, tasked the relevant agencies to consider the possibility of replacing Mehman Aliyev’s custodial detention with house arrest. The same day, the Baku City Yasamal District Court ordered to amend Mehman Aliyev’s detention and release him.
However, the journalist’s defense lawyer and his colleagues are insisting on a full acquittal. So, the lifting of the tax sanctions has been viewed by many as an important step in that direction.
The Turan news agency staff rejoiced at the news, saying that the agency would soon resume operations as usual.