RAN 27/07 Update # 9, 10 November 2010
The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International condemns the humiliating treatment of the Azeri journalist Eynulla Fatullayev, who was caged by Azeri authorities at his recent appeal hearing, and calls for the Azeri government to comply with the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling that Fatullayev be released from prison. Fatullayev remains incarcerated six months after the European Court ruled unanimously that he had been convicted on charges contrary to his right to freedom of expression and that he should be freed and compensated for his detention. PEN International and other human rights monitors consider him to be imprisoned because of his history of human rights reporting. On 6 July 2010 Fatullayev was convicted on a drugs possession charge and sentenced to a further two and a half years in prison, adding to his previous eight and a half year sentence. International human rights observers maintain that the drug possession charge was fabricated. On 5 November 2010, a Baku court heard Fatullayev’s appeal against his drugs possession sentence.
Eynulla Fatullayev, the former editor of the now-defunct Russian language weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the Azeri language weekly Gündelike Azerbaijan, was sentenced on 30 October 2007 to eight and a half years in prison on charges of defamation, terrorism, incitement of ethnic hatred and tax evasion. On 6 July 2010, Fatullayev was sentenced to a further two and a half years in prison for possession of drugs, a sentence set to begin in full starting from the date of conviction. As he had already served half a year in pre-trial isolation, this effectively added another six months to his sentence. Fatullayev appealed against the sentence, and the hearing took place on 5 November 2010.
In contravention of Azeri law, Fatullayev was only informed of the date of his hearing on the morning of the day it was due to take place. Azeri law requires two weeks’ notification, and thus his defence lawyer was denied time to prepare for the hearing. Fatullayev was also force to appear in court in a cage which prevented him from communicating with his lawyer. His lawyer described the conditions of the trial as disgraceful and walked out of the court. Fatullayev then asked the court to suspend the hearing, but the judge refused.
On 22 April 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Fatullayev’s 2007 convictions were contrary to his right to freedom of expression, as stated under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court said that Fatullayev should be released immediately and also that he should be awarded US$33,400 compensation. As a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, Azerbaijan is supposed to comply with the ruling. He remains in prison.