BAKU, Azerbaijan (Armenpress)—A Baku court has remanded reporter Afghan Mukhtarli in custody for three months. Mukhtarli was recently kidnapped from Tbilisi and forcibly taken to Baku.
Elchin Sagidov, the reporter’s attorney, told Turan news agency that his client is charged for resisting a border guard with force.
Mukhtarli on the other hand, says he hasn’t even seen that border guard, and that the people who arrested him were wearing Georgian police uniforms.
His attorney said they will appeal the court’s ruling.
A large crowd of activists greeted Mukhtarli with a round of applause outside the court on May 31.
Mukhtarli is a known critic of the Azerbaijani authorities’ policies. Since 2015, he was forced to settle in Tbilisi. He disappeared two days ago, and later appeared in Baku and was jailed.
He said that he was kidnapped from downtown Tbilisi by unknown people wearing civilian clothing, who were speaking Georgian. He was forced into a car and taken out of Georgia, heavily battered, blindfolded and taken to another vehicle. He was then forced to a third vehicle, already on the Azerbaijani border, where he heard the kidnappers talk in Azerbaijani. The kidnappers framed him by putting a large amount of cash in his pocket, and now he is charged with smuggling and illegal border crossing. His attorney has already met him, and said that his client has bruises on his face.
Afghan told his attorney that he has severe pain in the chest area, presumably fractured ribs.
Georgian authorities, including the country’s president Giorgi Margvelashvili expressed concern over the kidnapping of the journalist.
The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner urges Baku to release Mukhtarli in a statement released on Facebook on May 31. The statement can be read below.
I am appalled by what happened to Afgan Mukhtarli, an Azerbaijani journalist and activist, who has reportedly been abducted in Georgia and forcibly taken to Azerbaijan, where he is now facing prosecution for illegal crossing of the border and smuggling. Mr. Mukhtarli had been living in Georgia since 2015, when he left Azerbaijan to escape the government’s repression of critical voices.
According to his lawyer, Mr Mukhtarli affirms that money was put in his pocket by his abductors and alleges that they also ill-treated him. These are very serious allegations that require the utmost attention and urgent reaction by the Georgian authorities, which should carry out an effective, rapid and independent investigation into the events and take the necessary measures to act upon the results of the enquiry. In the meantime, Azerbaijan’s authorities must release Mr Mukhtarli without delay and ensure that he fully enjoys his human rights, including the protection from torture and ill-treatment.