An Azerbaijan official said the country will appeal an order by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to free imprisoned Azerbaijani journalist Eynulla Fatullayev.
The court ordered Azerbajan to release Fatullayev and pay him $33,400 in compensation.
“The European Court cannot take upon itself the roles of judicial, administrative, and other organs of the state-respondent,” Chingiz Askerov, Azerbaijan’s representative to the ECHR, told the Azerbaijani news agency Trend.
The ECHR, based in Strasbourg, found that Azerbaijan violated three articles of the European Convention on Human Rights in Fatullayev’s case: the right to a free trial, presumption of innocence, and freedom of expression. If Azerbaijan does not comply with the court’s decision, the European Council’s Committee of Ministers can impose penalties ranging from fines to expulsion from the council.
According to the French Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the case against Fatullayev is politically motivated and is evidence of the government’s determination to silence its critics.
Eynulla Fatullayev was editor-in-chief of the independent Gundelik Azerbaijan, and Realniy Azerbaijan newspapers.
Fatullayev was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison in October 2007, after he published an investigative report on the unsolved 2005 killing of his colleague Elmar Huseynov. Later he was charged with illegal possession of a narcotic after 220 mg of heroin were allegedly found in his clothes during a search of his prison cell. His lawyer, Isakhan Ashurov, said the incident was a set-up operation to forestall the EHCR from deciding on Fatullayev’s case, according to the Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety.
Ashurov is preparing to apply to Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court to implement the European Court’s decision, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).