Mehman Huseynov Sentenced to Two Years on Defamation Charges

Update: 11 Jun 2019 Resolved
Year 10 Jan 2017 Country Azerbaijan Category Detention and imprisonment of journalists Source of threat State Partner Article 19 , AEJ , CPJ , EFJ/IFJ , Index , IPI , PEN , RSF Alert level Level 1
10 Jan 2017 Azerbaijan Detention and imprisonment of journalists State Article 19 , AEJ , CPJ , EFJ/IFJ , Index , IPI , PEN , RSF Level 1

On 9 January 2017, Mehman Huseynov, a blogger and journalist, was detained in Central Baku by plain clothed police officers and held incommunicado overnight. Mehman has reported that while in police custody, police placed a sack over his head and used force against him. On 10 January, he was taken to Nasimi District Court, where he was tried on charges of disobeying the police (Article 535.1 of the Administrative Offences Code), which carries a sentence of up to 30 days in jail. The Court released him; however, he was fined 200 AZN (approx. 100 EUR). Huseynov is well known for his investigative journalism, focused on corruption among the Azerbaijani elite. Most recently, he had posted pictures online of luxury properties, which he said were owned by government officials. He has long been subject to pressure by the authorities, and has been under a travel ban for several years.

Resolved On 11 June 2019, given the Azerbaijan authorities had lifted the travel ban on Mehman Hüseynov in April 2019 and his second case was filed, the partner organisations to the Platform declared this case to be ‘resolved’, concluding that it was no longer an active threat to media freedom.

Updates

15 Apr 2019 : On 12 April 2019, the authorities of Azerbaijan lifted the travel ban of Mehman Hüseynov, allowing him to leave the country and attend an OSCE conference on media freedom in Vienna.
10 Apr 2019 : On 9 April 2019, Mehman Huseynov was informed that he was banned from leaving the country, according to the order of the General Prosecutor’s Office of Azerbaijan.
04 Mar 2019 : Mehman Huseynov was released from prison on 2 March 2019 after fully serving a two-year prison sentence.
22 Jan 2019 : On 22 January 2019, the Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan announced that the new criminal case against Mehman Huseynov, regarding his alleged attack on a warden, has been discontinued. This follows the statement of the President of Azerbaijan, who issued a recommendation to the prosecution “to ensure the fairness and objectivity of the investigation”, taking into account the family situation and the youth of the defendant.
02 Jan 2019 : On 26 December 2018, two months before his supposed end of sentence, new charges were brought against Mehman Huseynov. He was accused of beating a prison employee and placed in a punishment cell. In protest, he went on a dry hunger strike. On 30 December, Mr. Huseynov was transferred to Baku pre-trial centre. Due to his critical health state, a doctor was called in, who administered injections. The Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety addressed an appeal to the international community to “condemn another flagrant repressive act and call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mehman Huseynov”
28 Aug 2018 : On 14 August 2018, Mehman Huseynov asked for a conditional detention, a request that was rejected by the Garadargsky District Court on 24 August.
28 Jun 2018 : On 25 June 2018, Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court rejected the second appeal by Mehman Huseynov, upholding his prison sentence for defamation.
18 Dec 2017 : On 15 December 2017 the Baku Court of Appeals upheld the verdict against Huseynov, confirming his two year sentence for libel.
29 Sep 2017 : On 29 September 2017 the Supreme Court of Baku partially granted Mehman Huseynov`s appeal, sending the case back to the Court of Appeals.
12 Apr 2017 : On 12 April 2017, the Court of Appeals upheld the two years sentence against Mehman Huseynov.
03 Mar 2017 : On 3 March 2017, Mehman Huseynov was sentenced to two years in prison on defamation charges (article 147.2 of the Criminal Code – defamation regarding a very serious crime) by the Surakhani district court. He was arrested in the courtroom. Nasimi district police chief filed the defamation charges against Huseynov, claiming the blogger lied when he stated following his release in January that he had been beaten by the police, demanding that he stopped his blogging activities. Mehman Huseynov is the first person to be convicted for slander in Azerbaijan.

Follow-ups

07 Jan 2019 : PACE co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Azerbaijan call upon authorities to review Mehman Huseynov’s case
07 Jan 2019 : Commissioner calls on the authorities of Azerbaijan to drop charges against Mehman Huseynov
07 Mar 2017 : OSCE Freedom of Media Representative and Human Rights chief call for release of blogger and human rights activist in Azerbaijan
03 Mar 2017 : CoE Commissioner for Human Rights calls the two-year sentence against Mehman Huseynov in defamation case "appalling".
11 Jan 2017 : CoE Human Rights Commissioner expresses his worries at reported ill-treatment, arrest, fine of blogger Mehman Huseynov.

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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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