The law does not explicitly allow or forbid this kind of communication for inmates " />

Azerbaijani journalist kidnapped from Tbilisi demands right to call family by Skype

The law does not explicitly allow or forbid this kind of communication for inmates

Imprisoned opposition journalist Afgan Mukhtarli has lodged a complaint that prison authorities are not allowing him to send a letter to the Azerbaijani Ministry of Justice asking for the right to communicate with his family via Skype, says his wife and journalist Leyla Mustafayeva.

The Azerbaijani legislation does not explicitly allow or forbid prisoners from using Skype.

Background

Mukhtarli was known for his harsh criticism of the Azerbaijani government and articles exposing corruption within it.

In 2014 he moved to Georgia. In 2017 he was kidnapped and forcefully taken to Baku where he was sentenced to six years in prison for “illegally crossing the border, smuggling and resisting a government official”.

Mukhtarli himself blames Georgian security officials and the government of Georgia of “handing him over” to Azerbaijan. Human rights organisation Amnesty International recognized Mukhtarli as a “prisoner of conscience”. He is also included in a list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan compiled by the Centre for the Protection of Political Prisoners.

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What happened next?

After Mukhtarli was imprisoned, his wife Leyla Mustafayeva emigrated to Europe with her child.

“We have to stay abroad and cannot visit Afghan. Our five-year-old daughter is already tired of talking to her father only by phone and wants to see him. She is experiencing serious psychological problems,” Mustafayeva told the Caucasian Knot.

She is also worried by her husband’s health which has deteriorated.

“Afgan complained of severe back pain last week as well as of a cough with sputum. He is also worried about his pre-existing conditions, namely diabetes and high blood pressure. Despite the fact that his family has authorised me to meet with Afgan, [the prison] doesn’t give me dates. He can only call me,” says journalist Samir Asadli.

Is the legislation out of date?

The public relations department of Azerbaijan’s State Prison Service points to the law, noting it does not provide prisoners with the right to use Skype. The body says it has no information pertaining to Mukhtarli’s letter.

“When the code on the execution of sentences was adopted, Skype did not exist. The laws must be improved. In many countries across the world, prisoners are allowed to communicate with their relatives via the Internet,” said legal expert Yalchin Imanov.

Imanov added that according to Article 17 of the Law on the Rights and Freedoms of Persons Detained in Places of Imprisonment, convicts may send and receive letters and telegrams without restriction. Thus the refusal of the prison to send Mukhtarli’s letter is in clear violation of the law.

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