Georgian Interior Ministry: Azerbaijani blogger jumped off the roof in Tbilisi two weeks ago
Death of Azerbaijani blogger in Georgia – version of suicide raises questions
On July 30, the Georgian Interior Ministry confirmed the death of a citizen of Azerbaijan, opposition blogger Hussein Bakikhanov. However, the Ministry of Internal Affairs told JAMnews that the case is being investigated under Article 115 – “suicide”, and at least at this stage, the version of murder is not considered, as previously reported in the media.
JAMnews also reported that the incident took place on July 14, although information about his death spread in the media and social media only on July 29. By this time Bakikhanov had been dead for 15 days.
Who was Khusein Bakikhanov? What happened on July 14 and why and how was this information hidden for two weeks?
As the Ministry of Internal Affairs told JAMnews, on July 14, Khusein Bakikhanov jumped from the roof of the multi-story high-class Rooms hotel, located in the center of Tbilisi. The Azerbaijani blogger came there to seek employment.
The hotel’s lawyer, Kakha Tsereteli, told JAMnews that Bakikhanov had successfully passed the interview, he was supposed to be hired for a technical position (as it became known to JAMnews, to wash the dishes in the kitchen). The lawyer said that Bakikhanov took part in an introductory tour of the hotel along with other job seekers when he got to the roof.
They didn’t have time to stop him, and he jumped off. The lawyer claims that an ambulance and the police were immediately called to the scene, an investigation began and eyewitnesses and hotel staff were questioned.
This was also confirmed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
What is known about the Azerbaijani blogger
Additional information about Bakikhanov was shared with JAMnews by Avtandil Mammadov, an Azerbaijani citizen who also lives in Tbilisi and calls himself a political refugee.
Mamedov is a human rights activist who often helps his compatriots in Georgia. Bakikhanov was one of them.
“Hussein Bakikhanov arrived in Georgia in the spring of 2021 after he was detained in Baku during one of the opposition rallies. He spent 15 days in prison and said that he was beaten and insulted there.
After his release, Bakikhanov left Azerbaijan and came to Tbilisi, where he applied for political asylum. He settled in the old part of the city. He had financial problems, he often looked for work, worked as a translator and at a construction site”.
The last time Mamedov spoke with Bakikhanov was on 12 July. The blogger called him from the police phone and said that about five local Azerbaijanis attacked and beat him in the central Freedom Square. He said that he reported the attack not only to the police but also to the Public Defender.
Mamedov says he does not believe the official version of the police:
“He didn’t look like a desperate person. On the contrary, he made plans. Recently, cases of suicide of critics of the Azerbaijani government have become more frequent – Bayram Mammadov in Istanbul, Vugar Rzayev in Belgium. I do not believe in these coincidences”, Mammadov said.
He believes that Bakikhanov’s death is politically motivated. He says he will investigate the incident himself and hopes to find out the truth.
Questions with no clear answers
Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, who came to Tbilisi a few years ago and sought political asylum, does not believe the official version either. But soon he was kidnapped right in the center of Tbilisi, transported to Baku, where he served almost three years. After the release, Mukhtarly and his family moved to Germany. In March 2021, he filed a lawsuit against the Georgian authorities.
Mukhtarli was one of the first to write about Hussein’s death on social media on July 29. He keeps asking questions for which there are no obvious answers.
- Why was the incident kept secret for two weeks? Usually, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia immediately disseminates information even in the event of a minor incident, for example, a traffic accident.
- Rooms’ hotel lawyer says Hussein was about to start working there but for some reason, there is no document confirming his employment.
- Hussein’s phone and wallet remained on the seventh and last floor of the hotel. It is also known that he spoke on the phone in Azerbaijani right before climbing onto the roof and jumping. Did he suddenly dropped the phone, ran up and jumped off the roof?
- Hotel personnel was present at the incident. Why didn’t they intervene?
- On July 12, Bakikhanov was attacked and beaten in the center of Tbilisi and two days later, on July 14, he jumped off the roof.
- “The statement of the police does not seem convincing to me”, Mukhtarli wrote.
Human rights activist Mammadov says that Bakikhanov’s family in Azerbaijan, for some reason, only just found out about his death. He says that it would be extremely strange if this death were not reported to the Azerbaijani embassy in Georgia.
JAMnews spoke to almost all organizations in Georgia that deal with the problems of migrants and asylum seekers. None of them had any dealings with Bakikhanov.
One of JAMnews respondents, an activist, citizen of Georgia, ethnic Azeri, who knew Hussein personally, said that he was not a well-known and influential blogger in Azerbaijan. According to this respondent, prominent critics of the Azerbaijani authorities, after the story of Mukhtarly’s abduction, no longer seek refuge in Georgia, as they don’t feel safe there.
Information about Bakikhanov’s death appeared on July 29, it was spread by his Azerbaijani friends. They initially reported that the blogger was found dead at home. They claim that Bakikhanov had problems with the Azerbaijani authorities, he was a political migrant.
Journalist Afgan Mukhtarli drew particular attention to the group beating of Bakikhanov on 12 July. In particular, he wrote that Hussein was denied a medical examination of his internal organs.
The blogger himself told about this incident on his YouTube channel, calling the video: “Conspiracy of the Azerbaijani government or an accident?”
The video was recorded in an ambulance. Bakikhanov said that he called the police and an ambulance himself.
In the video, Bakikhanov says that he fled Azerbaijan, and he had only a few days left before receiving a certificate of refugee status in Georgia.
Hussein Bakikhanov was detained during a protest on May 7, 2021 in Baku. He was sentenced to 15 days in prison. After his release, he told reporters that he had been tortured by the police. He also said that the police threatened him with rape.
“During his stay in Tbilisi, he constantly criticized the Azerbaijani government on his YouTube channel”, Mukhtarli wrote on Facebook.