“You cannot silence us’, the journalist said in his final plea at the trial in Baku
Azerbaijani investigative journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was sentenced to 6 years in prison. The Balakan District Court passed the verdict on 12 January.
Mukhtarli was found guilty under three articles of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan: trespass of the state border, trafficking and resistance to officials. The journalist himself and his lawyers had denied all the charges, claiming that the Criminal Police officers had abducted Mukhtarli in Tbilisi on 29 May and handed him over to Azerbaijan’s special services.
In his closing arguments the prosecutor requested the court to sentence Mukhtarli to 8 years in prison. In his final plea Mukhtarli recounted the issues he’d probed in his investigations, including illegal business activity in the Göygöl natural reserve, misappropriations of funds in the Ministry of Defense, Industry and in the army, as well as the Azerbaijani authorities’ investments in Georgia. He also cited the names of the journalists who were no longer alive, saying he was lucky to have survived in a prison cell.
“Sending me to prison for some seven years is as far as you can go. But even this isn’t going to silence us. We will keep up our struggle. Overthrowing Ilham Aliyev is not our ultimate goal. Our goal is to give hope to people.”
The judge interrupted Mukhtarli’s speech.
The journalist’s lawyer Elchin Sadygov said the entire trial was a frame-up.
‘A prosecutor can’t demand a prison sentence longer than what is prescribed by the Criminal Code. In this case the prosecutor demanded that he should be sentenced to 8 years, while the maximum term of imprisonment under those charges is 7 years. It proves there was a political order for this,” the bastainfo.com agency cited Sadygov as saying.