Azeri journalist Sentenced to Prison for Criticising the Government

Yesterday, 27 May, was a bleak day for freedom of speech as Azerbajani journalist and blogger Abdul Abilov was sentenced to five and a half years on trumped up drug charges. Abilov was charged after vehemently criticising the government on Facebook.

Abilov’s sentencing comes amid an escalating crackdown targeting Azerbaijan’s journalists and bloggers. Currently there are eight journalists and seven bloggers in prison making Azerbaijan one the worst offenders for jailing journalists who criticise the authorities.

“Yesterday’s conviction once again demonstrates the extraordinary measures taken by the Azeri authorities to crush any criticism against the regime. It clearly shows the dangers human rights defenders face in the country,” said Marie Månson Programme Director for Support to Human Rights Defenders at Risk.

Azerbaijan is an authoritarian country, where civil and political rights are severely restricted and routinely violated. The political power is completely concentrated in the hands of the President, Ilham Aliev and the ruling party directly affiliated with him. The media for the most part is state-controlled and its freedom severely restricted.

Abilov is one of a number of recent high profiled cases that have seen numerous human rights defenders in Azerbaijan placed behind bars. Journalist Parviz Hashimli and human rights defenders Anar Mammadli and Bashir Suleymanli have all been convicted by the Courts on politically motivated charges.

Civil Rights Defenders once again calls on the authorities in Azerbaijan A to stop using the judiciary to imprison critics and to immediately release all those jailed for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.