The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, has today made the following statement in response to the arrest of journalist Mehman Aliyev:
“I have been informed that Mehman Aliyev, a prominent journalist and editor-in-chief of the renowned news agency Turan, was detained yesterday evening in Baku on suspicion of tax evasion and abuse of office. His detention was preceded by a search of the Turan premises. The agency’s bank accounts have also been frozen, forcing it to announce the suspension of its work as of 1 September.
“The Council of Europe is working closely with the authorities in Azerbaijan on reforms intended to soften the punishment system and avoid unnecessarily harsh sentences and detentions whenever possible – for instance, in cases when the person who is detained does not threaten the security of the state or its citizens. These changes are a part of a presidential initiative that Azerbaijani officials recently reported to the Committee of Ministers as being on the point of adoption.
“I call on the authorities in Azerbaijan to respect the spirit of the country’s cooperation with the Council of Europe and to fully abide by its commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights in order to avoid yet another case of unjust deprivation of liberty which has no place in a democratic society. Media and journalists should be able to carry out their activities freely without being subject to intimidation or undue interference.”