Azerbaijani government loses case in European court against opposition journalist
Ganimat Zahid v Azerbaijan
The European Court of Human Rights has fined the Azerbaijani government with 8,500 euros [$9,350] for destroying a manuscript by opposition journalist Ganimat Zahid. The 278-page manuscript of the book in a single copy was written by him in prison for political reasons.
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On March 24, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) announced its decision in the case of Ganimat Zahid v. Azerbaijan. The court recognized that the Azerbaijani justice system violated a right to freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial.
Ganimat Zahid vs. Azerbaijan
Azerbaijani journalist, editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper Azadlyg Ganimat Zahid, who now lives in France, filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights because of the violation of his freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial in his homeland.
In 2007, Ganimat Zahid was imprisoned for 4 years on charges of hooliganism. Human rights organizations declared his arrest illegal and politically motivated. In 2010, Zahid was released early and left Azerbaijan. Since 2012, he has been the author and presenter of the daily information releases “Azerbaijan Hour” on YouTube.
Ganimat Zahid stated that while in prison he wrote a 278 pages long book, but his manuscripts in a single copy were confiscated and destroyed. The journalist intended to publish a book based on these manuscripts after his release. He considers the actions of the authorities illegal.
Ganimat Zahid also requested that the decisions of local courts be declared illegal on the basis of paragraph 1 of article 6 of the convention (the right to a fair trial). Thus, he complained about the actions of the correctional institution employees who seized and destroyed the manuscripts as well as unfair decisions of local courts.
According to the journalist, in the local courts, the proceedings on his application were conducted illegally, the personal presence of the plaintiff at the hearings was not ensured, and the claims to invite witnesses to court hearings were groundlessly dismissed. Zahid also considers the decisions of local courts to be inadequate.
The plaintiff also claimed the violation of his rights under Article 13 (right to an effective remedy), Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the Convention and Article 1 (property rights) of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention.
The ECtHR recognized the seizure and destruction of manuscripts as a violation of freedom of expression. The decision of the European Court notes that the destruction of manuscripts in a single copy does not fall under the definition of the Azerbaijani government that this is “provided by law”.
By decision of the European Court of Human Rights, the Azerbaijani government is obliged to pay Ganimat Zahid compensation in the amount of 8,500 euros [$9,350].