anews.az editor sentenced to three and a half years [updated March 20]

[Updated] According to Azadliq Radio, Gambarov’s sentence was commuted on March 19 replacing the original sentence of 3.5 years with 1 year and 2 months of restricted freedom taking into account that Gambarov already served five months behind bars. The journalist will have to be home from 11 pm until 7 am. The charges were replaced from Article 221.3 (hooliganism committed with the use of a weapon or subjects)  of the Criminal Code to Article 221.2.2 (hooliganism committed with resistance to representative of the authority).  

February 28, regional editor for online news site anews.az Zaur Gambarov was sentenced to three and a half years in prison on alleged hooliganism charges reports Meydan TV. 

Gambarov is accused of throwing a chair at the Deputy Director of the State Social Protection Fund Gadabay Branch and beating his driver. Editor’s family members claim, the allegations are bogus and that Gambarov himself was beaten and later framed. 

“If the hearing was just, the court could have demanded the camera footage but they chose not to,” said Gambarov’s brother in an interview with Meydan TV. 

Gambarov in his defense said the reason for his arrest and sentence were his stories about corruption among government employees in Gadabay. Specifically, Gambarov points to a report he wrote about a relative of the head of the Gadabay’s City Administration which, according to Gambarov was the final straw that triggered the arrest. According to that story, the State Social Protection Fund employed a relative of the head of the Gadabay City Administration but that the relative never went to work at the Fund. 

In recent months, at least two website editors and journalists were sentenced to lengthy jail times – Polad Aslanov, and Afgan Sadigov. Both journalists have since been on hunger strike. 

two editors of online news platforms arrested [updated March 31]

[Update] On March 30, Sadigov’s wife, Sevinc Sadigova reported she was being blackmailed by the State Security Services threatening her with releasing personal videos of Sadigova. Afgan Sadigov has been on a hunger strike for 147 days now. On the 80th day, he lost consciousness and fell into a coma. After that, he was put on artificial feeding but has denied that in the past week as well said Sadigova. Following her statement about threats, the Prosecutor General office issued a warning to Sadigova denying allegations made by the journalist’s wife. In a statement obtained by Meydan TV, the Prosecutor General office said, that they would take legal action against Sadigova and those who spared such false and biased information on social networks and in the media, calling to refrain from such illegal actions.

According to existing national legislation, sharing, spreading, or selling video and photographs of people’s personal lives is punishable by a fine [1000-2000AZN], public work [240-480 hours], or correctional work [up to 1 year]. If this information is obtained by officials or via drones it is punishable by deprivation from official work for up to three years, up to two years of imprisonment, or up to two years of restricted freedom.   

February 7, on his 95th day of hunger strike, journalist Afgan Sadigov is experiencing memory loss said Sadigov’s wife, Sevinc Sadigova in an interview with Turan News Agency. Sadigova also said, her husband lost consciences on the 80th day of the hunger strike, and as a result fell into a coma. Although he regained his consciences his condition remains critical. Sadigova also said, that her husband has been receiving food injections through a tube.

January 28, the court of appeal reduced the sentence of Afgan Sadigov whose health condition remains critical Turan News Agency reports. The Sumgayit Court of Appeal in a hearing where Sadigov was absent ruled to reduce the seven-year sentence to 6. Speaking to Turan News Agency Sadigov’s lawyer Elchin Sadigov [not related] said the defendant intends to file a cassation appeal with the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Meanwhile, the journalist’s wife, Sevinc Sadigova said the decision is a travesty of justice sentencing her husband to death

On January 10, the family members of Sadigov reported his health was in critical condition and that the journalist was at the Penitentiary Service medical ward. Attempts to receive a comment from the Penitentiary Service were futile according to Azadliq Radio. 

On November 3, Afgan Sadigov was sentenced to seven years. In protest to the sentence, Sadigov, went on a hunger strike as of November 4. Meanwhile, Sakit Muradov, who was tried together with Sadigov was absent during the court hearing. According to Azadliq Radio reporting, Muradov was not detained during the investigation and was placed under police surveillance instead. Unlike Sadigov, Muradov received a suspended sentence.

On May 13, editors Afgan Sadigov, from AzelTV and Sakit Muradov, from Xeberfakt.az were reportedly arrested on charges of extortion. The two were allegedly caught during operation. 

According to a statement issued by the Prosecutor General office, both men demanded a total of 15,000AZN from the officials at Sumgayit City Executive power in an exchange for not running a series of stories on their respective websites. The statement claims, both journalists were caught having received 10,000AZN. 

If found guilty, both journalists are facing up to ten years in jail. 

Previously Sadigov was arrested in November 2016 on charges of hooliganism. He was sentenced to two and a half years in jail in January 2017. Sadigov was released in May 2018. 

The same year, Sadigov was sentenced to 30 days in administrative detention for allegedly disobeying police orders. Upon his release, Sadigov said he was innocent and that he was tortured in detention. At the time, the Ministry of the Interior did not comment. 

In November 2018 Sadigov was sentenced once again to a month in prison on charges of disobeying police and/or military officer. 

Sadigov is known for his criticism of the government in his social media posts and statements. Ahead of this recent arrest, Sadigov reportedly shared a story about rape which was refuted by the Prosecutor General.  

editor’s sentence reduced

February 25, the sentence of Anar Mammadov, editor of an online news site criminal.az was reduced from 5 years and 6 months to 5 years and 3 months. The decision was made by the Supreme Court.

Speaking in court, the editor, said allegations against him are bogus. “If you think I have committed a crime, then issue an arrest warrant. If you think writing about what is happening is a crime, then I commit this crime every day”, said Mammadov in court during the hearing.

Speaking to Azadliq Radio, Azerbaijan Service for Radio Free Europe, Mammadov said, he will be appealing to the European Court of Human Rights.