Azerbaijani opposition website editor sentenced to 5.5 years probation
The editor of bastainfo.com, Mustafa Hajibeyli, is the latest journalist to face criminal prosecution in Azerbaijan and has been sentenced to 5.5 years probation, Turan reports.
The Court found him guilty under articles 309 (abuse of office), 313 (service forgery) and 281 (public appeals directed against the state) of the Criminal Code.
The decision to grant him probation instead of sending him to prison was made on the basis that he is a veteran of the Karabakh war and has children under the age of 18.
What was Hajibeyli tried for?
Bastainfo.com and three other sites were blocked in Azerbaijan back in July 2018.
The Prosecutor General’s Office opened criminal cases against the sites on charges of “disseminating false information” when covering the attempt on the life of the mayor of the city of Ganja in the north-west of Azerbaijan.
Hajibeyli was initially involved in the case as a witness, but in November became an accused.
In 2017, Hajibeyli received a warning from the prosecutor’s office for “distributing information which is prohibited by law”, referring to articles he published regarding opposition journalist Afgan Mukhtarli who was kidnapped from Tbilisi in 2017 and is now in prison in Azerbaijan.
In his closing speech before the announcement of the verdict, Hajibeyli called the case illegal and unreasonable. He noted that it was absurd that he was treated and tried as a state official:
“I not only don’t have any official position, but I don’t even have a workplace. The Constitutional Court, at the request of the prosecutor’s office, has determined a list of officials, and not a single journalist is on that list,” he said.
His defence intends to appeal the verdict.