Prince Andrew appeal from father of journalist jailed in Azerbaijan

The father of a wrongly-imprisoned newspaper editor from Azerbaijan has issued an impassioned appeal to the Duke of York to intervene on behalf of his son, following reports that Prince Andrew is friends with the country’s President Ilham Aliyev.

Newspaper editor Eynulla Fətullayev, aged 34, was sentenced on 6 July 2010 to two and a half years imprisonment. Amnesty International strongly believes that the charges – of possessing heroin - were fabricated and that Eynulla is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned in an attempt to silence his critical reporting of the government. Eynulla was already serving an eight and a half year prison sentence on trumped-up charges dating from 2007.

Amnesty is asking people to write directly to President Aliyev and appeal for Eynulla’s release, at www.amnesty.org.uk/eynulla.

Emin Fətullayev, the father of Eynulla, has fought tirelessly for his son to be freed and has received death threats in response. He said:

“The government of Azerbaijan is persecuting my son for writing the truth. They have smeared his name, called him a drug addict, and taken away his liberty. All I want is for my son to be released from prison – he has done nothing wrong. He is a good journalist.

“I have received many messages of support from people in the UK who believe in free speech. But Prince Andrew could actually help my son. The Prince is friends with President Aliyev, so maybe he will listen to him. As one father to another, I am asking him to speak with President Aliyev and urge him to release my son Eynulla.”

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“President Aliyev’s government exercises tight control over free speech in Azerbaijan. Street protests are effectively banned and newspapers can be shut down for saying the wrong thing.

“Independent journalists like Eynulla are harassed and jailed on fabricated charges, and beaten by police. Foreign reporters were kicked out of the country in 2009 and haven’t been allowed back.

“We even reported last week on two youth activists who were arrested after a Facebook posting calling for protests.

“President Aliyev should stop trying to silence his own people and start respecting their rights.

”Eynulla Fətullayev is a prisoner of conscience, held solely for exercising the right to peaceful free expression. He should be immediately and unconditionally released.”

The European Court of Human Rights quashed the 2007 charges against Eynulla in April 2010, ordering that he be freed. In line with this decision, the Azerbaijani Supreme Court, on 11 November 2010, revoked the charges of defamation, terrorism, and incitement to racial hatred, and also ruled that he had served a concurrent prison term for tax evasion. However, Eynulla remains in prison on the separate conviction for drugs possession. In sentencing Eynulla to this further prison term three months after the European Court ruling was made, but in the period before it became final, Azerbaijan has clearly sought to side-step the Court’s judgment. The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers is currently meeting to supervise the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights – including in this case.

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