Azerbaijani authorities release official statement over detention of Afgan Mukhtarli
The State Border Guard Service and the General Prosecutor’s Office of Azerbaijan released a joint statement regarding the abduction of the Azerbaijani opposition journalist, Afgan Mukhtarli, three days after the incident, on 1 June.
As it is pointed out in the statement, the State Border Guard Service officers arrested Mukhtarli in the territory of Balaken district, Azerbaijan, at 10:40 p.m., on 29 May, after he had ‘illegally crossed’ the Azerbaijani border from Georgia without any identity documents. ‘A. Mukhtarli resisted the Border Guard Service officers during the arrest and attempted to escape.’
“Cash amounting to EUR 10,000, and a ‘Bank of Georgia Express’ card were found during a search of A. Mukhtarli’s personal belongings,” reads the statement.
On 30 May, Afgan Mukhtarli was charged under two articles of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan (border trespassing and smuggling). One more charge was brought against him a day later: resistance or use of violence against a public official. The same day, the court ordered a 3-month pre-trial detention for Mukhtarli. Afghan Mukhtarli is facing a sentence of up to 8 years in prison under the aforesaid three articles.
“We have petitioned to call an expert and examine Afgan right in the courtroom, since he had been inflicted bodily injuries on the way from Georgia to Azerbaijan. However, the court turned down the petition without even substantiating its decision,” Elchin Sadigov, the journalist’s lawyer, told Turan news agency.
“According to Mukhtarli, individuals wearing Georgian police uniforms abducted him in Tbilisi on 29 May. They didn’t introduce themselves and forced the journalist into a car. After they left Tbilisi, they changed cars several times,” the Caucasian Knot quoted the defense lawyer as saying.
Afgan Mukhtarli, an opposition journalist and activist, left Azerbaijan for Georgia in 2014. He was granted a residence permit in Georgia. Mukhtarli has continuously been subjected to pressure on part of the Azerbaijani authorities. Some of his claims are currently under discussion in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). He has recently been cooperating with the International War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and Meydan.tv media organizations.