Ganimat Zahidov
Ganimat Zahidov
Ganimat Zahidov

Mr. Ilham Aliyev,

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan,

Office of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan,

19 Istiqlaliyyat St., Baku AZ1066,

Azerbaijan,

Fax: (+994) 12 492 06 25, (+994) 412 92 28 68,

E-mail: [email protected], [email protected]

Mr. President,

I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human rights defender and Freelance journalist.

I would like to draw your attention to the following case.
On 24 July 2015, Azerbaijani police raided the homes of Ms Hadidsha Zahidova, Mr Hagani Zahidov and Mr Rovshan Zahidov, who are respectively the mother, nephew and cousin of human rights journalist Mr Ganimat Zahidov. Since 19 July 2015 police have also arrested two of Ganimat’s nephews, Messrs Rufat and Tural Zahidov, as well as his cousin Mr Rovshan Zahidov.

Ganimat Zahidov is a chief editor of the newspaper Azadlig (?freedom? in Azerbaijani), which was founded in 1989. As one of the remaining independent news sources on Azerbaijan, it reports about mass media restrictions and human rights violations committed in the country. Ganimat Zahidov, who was awarded the Reporters Without Borders Austrian section?s press freedom prize in 2009, has already served two and a half years in prison on trumped-up charges. After his release in 2010, he and his family members were seriously threatened and subsequently fled to France in 2011. In exile, he continued to run “Azadlig” and launched a television program ?Azerbaijan Hour? which is broadcast by satellite for a few hours each week. “Azadlig” continues to report on trials of Azerbaijani human rights defenders detained during the 2014 crackdown on civil society in Azerbaijan.

On 24 July 2015, police officers raided the homes of Ganimat’s mother, Hadidsha Zahidova, and his nephew, Hagani Zahidov, in Meysariya village, Shamakhi district. Hadidsha’s personal computer was confiscated. At the same time fifteen persons, some of whom wore police uniform, raided the home of the human rights defender’s cousin Rovshan Zahidov. Rovshan is currently detained in Shamakhi following his arrest on 20 July on charges of allegedly refusing to comply with police instructions. During the raid, police officers claim to have found drugs in a jacket belonging to Rovshan. However, his wife is reported to have witnessed police officers planting the drugs beforehand. Following the raid, the police accused him of illegal possession of drugs under Article 234.4.1?of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan.

Rufat Zahidov, Ganimat’s nephew, who was arrested by the Baku police at his workplace in the Yasamal district of Baku on 21 July, faces the same charges. Police officers claim to have found drugs in his car during his arrest. If found guilty of these charges, Rovshan and Rufat face up to 12 years’ imprisonment.

On 19 July, another nephew of the human rights journalist, Tural Zahidov, was arrested in Shamakhi and held for 30 days on charges of resisting the police, in violation of Article 310 of the Code of Administrative Offences.

I express my grave concern at the raid of the homes and arrests of Ganimat’s relatives, which I believe to be an attempt to intimidate the human rights journalist and prevent him from continuing his legitimate work in defence of human rights.

I urge the authorities in Azerbaijan to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release Messrs Rufat Zahidov, Tural Zahidov and Rovshan Zahidov, as Front Line Defenders believes that they are being held solely as a result of Ganimat Zahidov’s legitimate and peaceful journalism in the defence of human rights;

2. Immediately cease all further harassment of Mr Ganimat Zahidov’s family and return the computer belonging to Ms Hadidsha Zahidova, which is believed to have been arbitrarily confiscated during the raid of her home;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

Sincerely,

William Nicholas Gomes

Human Rights Defender & ?Freelance Journalist

Twitter @wnicholasgomes

Email: [email protected]

www.facebook.com/williamnicholasgomes

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