Azerbaijani journalist claims police kidnapped and tortured him for 3 days
Ismayil Islamoglu, a journalist and blogger who actively criticizes the government, claims that the police kidnapped and tortured him for three days. The police themselves deny the allegation and say that they, in fact, found the journalist and returned him to his home.
Two contradictory statements
Ismayil Islamoglu leads a news programme on Internet TV Kanal-13. On the evening of 26 October, his relatives reported on Facebook that he had disappeared: he left work and did not come home. They informed the police, but for three days there was no news of the missing journalist. On the fourth day, lawyer Bahruz Bayramov joined the search. Assuming that Ismayil could have been detained, he began sending requests to various police departments and courts, but to no avail.
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Soon thereafter, the journalist reappeared and posted a video message on his Facebook page. He stated that on the evening of 26 October two people in civilian clothes detained him, took him to one of the police departments in Baku and held him there for three days.
“They insulted me with obscene words and beat me, put a plastic bag over my head and kept me standing for several hours. They threatened not only me, but also my relatives and then ordered me to stop criticising (the authorities) and to keep quiet about what they were doing to me,” said Islamoglu.
He lodged complaints with the attorney general and minister of internal affairs, demanding that the incident be investigated as a kidnapping and that those responsible be punished.
However, Baku city police headquarters denies that the journalist was ever detained. The police say they received a statement that he had gone missing and began looking for him. When they found him, they invited him to the police department to talk and then transferred him to the 28th police station where a report was filed.
What do human rights advocates and Islamoglu’s colleagues say?
Many human rights advocates agree that Islamoglu could have been targeted for his posts on social media.
“It seems that the authorities have resorted to a new method of pressuring activists. They are not officially arrested, but they are subjected to short-term detention and intimidation,” says Oktay Gulalyev, coordinator of the Center for the Protection of Political Prisoners. He adds that this is not the first such case.
Islamoglu recently made sarcastic remarks about inviting the AI robot Sophia to Azerbaijan and about her meeting with the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. Ganimat Zahid, the head of independent TV channel Turan, says that this was likely the reason behind his arrest.
A number of Azerbaijani journalists and bloggers have been detained, arrested and sentenced to prison on charges of various criminal offenses. Many international and local human rights organizations associate this with their professional activities.
One of the most high-profile cases is that of Afgan Mukhtarli who was reportedly kidnapped from Georgia in 2017. Mukhtarli says that he was kidnapped by people dressed in the uniforms of the Georgian police.