Azerbaijani health minister withdraws slander suit against journalist
Azerbaijani Health Minister Oqtay Shiraliyev has withdrawn a suit against journalist Teymur Karimov, whom he had previously accused of defamation.
Karimov held a one-man rally in front of the Ministry of Health on May 18, complaining of extortion by doctors and blaming Minister Shiraliyev personally for the presence of the issue in the national healthcare system.
Details of the one-man picket line
On the afternoon of May 18, Teymur Karimov came to the Ministry of Health building and laid out several items of clothing on the pavement in front of him.
Then he began to defiantly take off his jacket and shirt, telling his story along the way.
Karimov says his mother is sick with blood cancer and is being treated at a state hospital, but that hospital staff are constantly demanding money for drugs, injections and other procedures that, by law, should be free.
“They force people, literally, to sell everything, down to their underwear, to pay for the treatment. So I decided to sell my clothes to pay for at least a couple ofmy mother’s shots”, Karimov said, explaining the format of the demonstration.
What happened next?
15 minutes after the start of his demonstration, the police arrived at the scene, Teymur Karimov told the Caucasian Knot.
Karimov was taken to the police department, questioned and promised that on May 20 he would be received at the Ministry of Health, and prosecutors would consider his complaints of extortion.
On May 20, the Ministry of Health announced , that “all these accusations are completely unfounded,” and his mother is being given all the help she needs.
On the same day, the journalist was summoned to the prosecutor’s office. Coming out of the office, he said:
“I want to believe that the prosecutor’s office will really figure everything out. I personally believe that the only way to remedy the situation in health care is to dismiss Minister Ogtay Shiraliyev.”
Accusations of slander
Shortly after the one-man rally, Minister Ogtay Shiraliyev filed a lawsuit against Karimov, accusing him of slander and libel.
Had the suit gone through, Karimov could have faced up to six months in prison had he been convicted.
At the beginning of the preparatory meeting of the court on June 14, the judge announced that the minister had sent a letter to have the claim withdrawn.
The minister did not explain the reasons behind his decision – Teymur Karimov himself says the minister’s decision was influenced by “negative public opinion”.
“Even at the last meeting, dozens of people came to court to confirm cases of extortion by doctors, the lack of free medicines for certain categories of patients, the high cost of paid medical services. This topic was actively discussed on social media. Maybe I was emotional and harsh in my statements, but in fact I was right”, Karimov told the Caucasian Knot.
The journalist’s mother passed away on June 7.