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No evidence proves Azeri journalist’s abduction

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, July 11
Georgia’s Interior Minister, Giorgi Mgebrishvili, says there is no evidence that can prove that Azeri investigative journalist Afghan Mukhtarli was abducted from the centre of Tbilisi, as the parliamentary opposition, some NGOs and Mukhtarli’s family claim.

Mgebrishvili stressed that video recordings were taken from cameras from the site from where Mukhtarli went missing.

“There is no evidence that the man was abducted and we won’t artificially stage a scenario that is in the interest of those supporting the journalist,” Mgebrishvili said.

The Minister announced the video footage was handed to Mukhtarli’s lawyer, who “disliked them”, as there were no proof that Mukhtarli was kidnapped.

Mgebrishvili called the allegations that Mukhtarli (who was disliked by Azeri official figures for his journalist investigation) was abducted with the support of Georgia’s law enforcers and handed to Azeri relevant bodies “absurd”.

“There is no evidence or witnesses that Georgian police could be involved in the case,” Mgebrishvili said, saying an investigation was in progress over Mukhtarli’s disappearance from Tbilisi.

Mukhtarli has already been sent to three-month pre-trial detention in Azerbaijan for smuggling money and allegedly illegally crossing the border.

Mukhtarli’s lawyers and family state the charges were invented, and Mukhtarli was handed to Azerbaijan by Georgia’s law enforcers.

The journalist’s wife was offered Georgian citizenship by the country’s Prime Minister and the President, which she refused.

She said she and her husband had lived in Georgia since 2015, and until Mukhtarli’s detention Georgian authorities refused to grant her a residency permit despite her previous requests.

Leila Mustapaeva said the only competent state figure in Georgia was the President of Georgia, who, according to her, agrees that Mukhtarli’s disappearance from Tbilisi is the result of a conspiracy.

Ten of Georgia’s leading NGOs stressed that considering the political character of the incident and Mukhtarli’s allegation about the possible participation of the Georgian state authorities in his detention, “we have a well-grounded suspicion that the Azerbaijani journalist could not have been arrested in the territory of Georgia and transported to Azerbaijan without at least a willing ignorance or ineffective work of Georgian state institutions, if not with their active support and direct participation”.

They added it is particularly suspicious that an Azerbaijani citizen crossed the border without his ID documents.

“Despite well-grounded concerns that Mukhtarli may become a subject of torture, inhumane treatment or punishment, and a victim of political persecution in Azerbaijan, the state of Georgia failed to guarantee the safety and inviolability of persons who were under its control and even participated in illegal activities. It causes deep concern and violates the obligations of Georgia under international conventions and acts,” they added.

The NGOs addressed the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia to ensure an effective, timely, and impartial investigation into the case.