A decision by Judge Sulhane Hajiyeva in the Khatai District Court has led to a 3-month and 29-day detention order against Sevinj Vagifqizi, the editor-in-chief of AbzasMedia.
The court’s decision stemmed from the prosecution’s assertion during presentations that Vagifqizi should remain in pretrial detention while investigations proceed. Her defense vehemently opposed this move, asserting the unsubstantiated nature of the allegations and calling for their dismissal.
Vagifqizi stood firm, maintaining her innocence and connecting her arrest to AbzasMedia’s journalistic endeavors. Specifically, she contested the charges under Article 206.3.2 of the Criminal Code, dismissing accusations of involvement in group smuggling and linking her detention to the outlet’s investigations into corruption among the ruling class.
The defense highlighted Vagifqizi’s recent return to Azerbaijan, despite the looming threat of arrest, as evidence against claims of evading investigation. Despite these arguments, the judge ruled in favor of the prosecution, resulting in her detention.
Legal representatives affirmed their intention to appeal these decisions, stating their disagreement with the court’s rulings. Meanwhile, the arrests unfolded with Vagifqizi being detained upon arrival from Istanbul, followed by a subsequent search of her residence, yielding no incriminating evidence.
Ulvin Hasanli, director of AbsazMedia was apprehended while boarding a taxi in front of his residence the previous morning, followed by a search of the AbzasMedia office later that day, where authorities allegedly found 40,000 euros. Hasanli has been sentenced to four months in jail.
Amid mounting concerns over press freedom, international entities have rallied, urging Azerbaijani authorities to halt what they perceive as undue pressure on independent media. They have labeled Vagifqizi’s detention and the wider circumstances as retaliatory measures against the press, calling for her immediate release to safeguard freedom of expression in the country.