Court turns down journalist Afgan Mukhtarli’s request to attend his relatives’ funeral
Afgan Mukhtarli, a prominent Azerbaijani investigative journalist who is currently being held in custody couldn’t attend his relatives’ funeral as the court denied his request for temporary release on 5 January.
Afghan Mukhtarli’s sister, niece and nephew were found dead in the town of Zagatala on 31 December 2017. According to family members a gust of wind blew out the flame in the gas heater at night which led to the tragedy.
Mukhtarli wrote articles about the abuse of powers in the Defense Ministry as well as the Aliyev family’s business in Georgia. He disappeared in Tbilisi on 30 May 2017 and was arrested in Baku one day later on charges of trespassing the border, smuggling and resisting officers. Mukhtarli claims that he was abducted in Georgia by Azerbaijani special services and denies all the charges made against him.
Mukhtarli’s lawyer, Nemat Kerimli, told a Caucasian Knot journalist:
“Afgan Mukhtarli’s relatives tragically died on 31 December. Thus we petitioned the court to lift his house arrest momentarily so that he could meet his relatives and attend the funeral. The circumstances justifying his custody have also changed as his arrest period was extended and he can’t even hypothetically exert pressure on witnesses. The court investigation is coming to a close, so Mukhtarli could have stayed under house arrest until the announcement of the verdict.”
According to Kerimli, on 31 December he and his colleague Elchin Sadygov jointly appealed to the Ombudsman and the Penitentiary Service requesting to let Mukhtarli attend his relatives’ funeral, but they didn’t receive any response.
“It’s true that there is no direct regulation in the legislation providing for temporary release of an individual under investigation to attend a close relative’s funeral. It is stipulated in the Penal Enforcement Code. For example, those who are already serving a prison sentence are eligible for a 7-day temporary leave for bereavement. As we were told in the pre-trial detention facility, this regulation doesn’t apply to the individuals against whom a final judgment hasn’t been rendered yet. However, the legislation doesn’t directly prohibit short-term release of prisoners either,” the lawyer explained.
The trial will continue on 12 January.