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EU Demands Thorough Investigation on Azeri Journalist’s Alleged Abduction from Tbilisi

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, January 16
(BRUSSELS)--The European Union (EU) has questioned the imprisonment of Azeri investigative journalist Afghan Mukhtarli and demanded a thorough and transparent investigation of his alleged abduction from Tbilisi on May 29, last year.

“The six-year sentence handed down to Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli by a court in Balakan [Azerbaiian] on January 12 poses serious questions as regards the exercise of fundamental rights including the freedom of expression and media and due process of law in Azerbaijan,” the EU reports.

The organization says that the alleged abduction of Mukhtarli in Georgia followed by his arrest and prosecution in Azerbaijan “continues to demand thorough and transparent investigation”.

The EU states that all cases of incarceration related to the exercise of fundamental rights should be reviewed urgently by Azerbaijan, followed by the release of all those concerned, in line with Azerbaijan's international commitments.

Georgian opposition parties and the civil sector also demand the timely completion of the investigation over Mukhtarli’s disappearance from central Tbilisi.

Mukhtarli and his family say that the Georgian and Azerbaijani leaderships agreed to “silence the journalist” for his investigations over Ilham Aliyev’s family businesses in Georgia and the family deals with the Georgian government.

Neither Georgian not Azeri law enforcers could reveal the video footage depicting how the journalist emerged in Baku to Tbilisi, despite the fact dozens of cameras should have been turned on the route used by Mukhtarli.

Georgia’s law enforcement agencies say that the cameras were temporarily turned off as new systems should have been launched. As to Azeri law enforcers, they stated that the cameras were simply switched off.

The Balakan court found Mukhtarli guilty for illegal crossing of border, smuggling in money and showing resistance to border guards, while Mukhtarli dismisses the charges and claims he was abducted from Tbilisi for his investigations.

Mukhtarli’s wife, Leyla Mustafayeva, who is also an investigative journalist, has stated that his husband’s verdict was part of a “joint deal” between the Georgian and Azerbaijani leaderships.

The Georgian government dismisses the accusations over any involvement in Mukhtarli’s case.

The US President Donald Trump’s administration and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have already called for the release of the journalist.

Mukhtarli, with his wife and an underage daughter had lived in Georgia since 2015, as he saw threats from the Azerbaijani leadership.

The Georgian government refused to grant them the residency permit they had been asking for.

After Mukhtarli’s disappearance and the stir over the issue, President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili offered Mukhtarli’s wife the Georgian citizenship, which she declined.

Now Mustafayeva lives in one of the EU states with her daughter.