Azerbaijan: Journalist Rauf Mirgadirov Sentenced to Prison
In response to a court in Baku, Azerbaijan, convicting journalist Rauf Mirgadirov on espionage charges and sentencing him to six years imprisonment, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“It is ironic and tragic that President Aliyev’s government imprisons a journalist on wholly groundless espionage charges while granting amnesty to more than 200 prisoners, none of them political prisoners,” said Daniel Calingaert, executive vice-president. “Given the government’s long-standing intolerance of dissent, Aliyev’s government apparently fears journalists and human rights activists more than criminals.”
Journalist Rauf Mirgadirov, a critic of Aliyev’s government, was deported from Turkey in April and arrested in Azerbaijan on allegations of espionage for Armenia. On December 28, a court in Baku sentenced him to six years imprisonment.
On December 16, U.S. Representative Chris Smith (D-NJ) introduced the Azerbaijan Democracy Act (H.R.4264), which would deny U.S. visas for senior Azerbaijani officials, their immediate family members, other officials directly involved in human rights abuses, and individuals financially benefitting from human rights violations.
Azerbaijan is rated Not Free in Freedom of the World 2015 and Freedom of the Press 2015, Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2015, and receives a democracy score of 6.75 on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2015.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.