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Azerbaijani blogger, former prisoner of conscience succeeds in leaving country in second attempt

Huseynov promises to ‘expose the lies of the main state-run television channel’

Blogger and former prisoner of conscience, Mehman Huseynov, has been allowed to leave the country.

Earlier on 9 April, he was prevented from flying out of Azerbaijan.

Huseynov attempted to fly from Baku to Berlin in order to travel to Strasbourg where he would have attended several international conferences.

However, border guards said that the Prosecutor General’s Office had placed him on a no-fly list, the reasons for which were not explained to him, Turan reports.

Mehman Huseynov is a young video blogger who actively criticized the authorities of Azerbaijan. In March 2017, he was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of libel against a police officer when he complained of being tortured at a police station. International organizations recognized him as a political prisoner at the time.

At the end of December 2018, with just a few days remaining before his prison term expires, Huseynov was accused of attacking a prison guard. Had he been convicted, he would have faced another seven years in prison. In protest, the blogger went on a hunger strike, joined by many other political prisoners and opposition activists. The case received widespread publicity and even served as a pretext for an opposition rally. The new case against Huseynov was eventually dismissed.

Huseynov fully served a two-year term for alleged libel and, having been released, received a passport. No new charges have been made against him since then, thus there should have been no legal grounds for a ban on his leaving the country.

Before his departure, Huseynov wrote on his Facebook page that the widespread media attention of this problem contributed to its resolution.

He said that at upcoming meetings and conferences he was going to discuss topics such as freedom of the press, human rights and political prisoners. He also promised to make AzTV, the main state channel of Azerbaijan, “regret its functioning”.

Huseynov says that AzTV regularly shows reports demonstrating that ‘Europe is falling apart’, which has become the subject of jokes in Azerbaijan.

What is Azerbaijan’s no-fly list?

The no-fly list contains the names of individuals who have been forbidden from leaving Azerbaijan. The constantly updated list can be found on the website of the Ministry of the Interior.

However, individuals who make their way onto the list are not informed in advance. Thus, people find out about the list only when trying to leave the country.

At the moment, the exit ban applies, for example, to several journalists who have collaborated with Meydan TV. They have filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights, which found in their favour and ruled that the state compensate them.

The government of Azerbaijan has not taken any measures yet.

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