News Editor Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison Before Elections
An independent news editor in Azerbaijan has been sentenced to 5 years in prison just before the country’s presidential elections on 9 October. Civil Rights Defenders condemns the sentence against Hilal Mammadov, the editor of Tilishi Sado newspaper. His case is the latest in a series of processes against those exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association in Azerbaijan.
“By sentencing Hilal Mammadov to five years on what appears to be politically motivated charges just before the presidential elections, the Azeri authorities again show their lack of respect for freedom of speech and other basic human rights. The Swedish government and other European leaders should strongly condemn these abuses and it should have consequences for the EU’s relations to Azerbaijan,”, said Joanna Kurosz, Eurasia Programme Director, Civil Rights Defenders.
Hilal Mamedov was arrested by the Azerbaijani police on 21 June, 2012. He was charged in drug possession (Article 234.4.3/Criminal Code); later on the Azerbaijani Ministry of National Security accused him of treason and espionage (Article 274/Criminal Code). On 27 September 2013, a court found him guilty and sentenced him to 5 years imprisonment.
In his closing speech, Hilal Mammadov said the whole case against him was a disgrace for his country and its international image. Mammadov’s lawyers said they would appeal but Hilal Mammadov has already announced that he will not seek a pardon. Before the court passed sentence, he thanked all those who have supported during the process.
Human rights observers inside and outside Azerbaijan believe that Hilal Mamedov is being punished for his journalism and activism for national minorities’ rights. His case is the latest in a series of processes against those exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association in Azerbaijan. In recent years, the government of Azerbaijan has imprisoned a record number of bloggers, journalists, youth activists and politicians.