Free speech campaigners in London protest against continued persecution of jailed editor
Freedom of expression campaigners will protest on Thursday 3 June outside the Azerbaijani embassy in London, calling for an end to the persecution of jailed journalist Eynulla Fatullayev.
Amnesty International UK, ARTICLE 19, English PEN and Index on Censorship will also hand in a letter to the embassy – signed by key literary figures including Monica Ali, Alan Ayckbourn, William Boyd, and Philip Pullman - calling for Fatullayev’s immediate release and for new politically-motivated charges against him to be dropped.
Newspaper editor Fatullayev, 33, is currently serving an eight-and-a-half year prison sentence based on trumped-up charges of terrorism and defamation. In April this year the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that he had been wrongfully imprisoned for exercising his right to freedom of expression and that he should be immediately released.
Despite being a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, the Azerbaijan authorities responded by questioning the court’s authority. Chingiz Esgerov, Azerbaijan’s representative to the ECtHR, argued that “the ECtHR has no authority to give orders to the courts of other countries” and “the country’s legislation does not envision the release of a prisoner only on a basis of the ECtHR.”
After the ECtHR began reviewing his case, Eynulla Fatullayev was further accused of possessing illegal drugs - a charge widely believed to have been fabricated in order to keep him in prison.
In March Eynulla’s father received a death threat for speaking out about his son. This is the third of such threats he has received.
Eynulla Fatullayev received an honourable mention before an audience of the UK’s leading journalists at last night’s Amnesty International Media Awards. In 2009 he was the recipient of the Amnesty International Special Award for Journalism Under Threat.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“The continuing imprisonment and persecution of Eynulla Fatullayev brings shame on Azerbaijan. It’s amazing that the authorities are so scared of the words of one journalist that they would damage their international standing in this way, even questioning the authority of the European Court of Human Rights.”
ARTICLE 19 Executive Director Agnès Callamard said:
“It is extremely disconcerting that Emin Fatullayev has received death threats for speaking out on behalf of his son. The Azerbaijani Government has the duty to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. They should publicly condemn such threats, investigate them thoroughly, and provide adequate protection to Emin Fatullayev.”
Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee and Deputy President of English PEN Carole Seymour-Jones said :
“Eynulla Fatullayev is just a journalist doing his job. He should be released immediately and these politically-motivated charges against him should be dropped.”
John Kampfner, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship said:
“Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right which journalists, human rights defenders and all of us should be able to exercise openly and without fear of reprisals. Azerbaijan must fulfil its international obligations to guarantee this right.”
The persecution of journalists such as Eynulla Fatullayev is commonplace in Azerbaijan. The authorities have curtailed freedom of expression and have shown persistent hostility towards independent and opposition media. Journalists continue to be harassed, threatened, attacked and imprisoned for conducting their professional activities. Defamation and false charges are increasingly used to silence critical voices.
What: Protesters with placards demonstrating outside embassy and handing in letter to ambassador
When: 12 noon to 1pm, Thursday 3 June
Where: Opposite the Azerbaijan Embassy, 4 Kensington Court, London, W8 5DL.
For more media information and interviews please contact:
Steve Ballinger, Amnesty International UK media unit, 020 7033 1548, Out of hours: 07721 398984, www.amnesty.org.uk
Rebecca Vincent, ARTICLE 19 Azerbaijan Advocacy Assistant, 0207 324 2509
Robert Sharp, English PEN Campaigns Manager, 0207 324 2538, Out of hours: 07790 420011
Padraig Reidy, Index on Censorship News Editor, 020 7324 2526, Out of hours: 07947 242 476