ECHR: Award-winning journalist Seymur Haziyev unlawfully detained

Seymur Həzi

Seymur Həzi

A 6 December judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that the rights of journalist Seymur Haziyev (Hazi), who has been serving a five-year prison sentence for hooliganism since 2015, were breached on two occasions. The court ruled that we will receive €14,500 in compensation for non-pecuniary damage and costs and expenses.

Haziyev an award-winning journalist who worked for the opposition newspaper Azadliq and Turkey-based TV channel Azerbaijani Saati and a member of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP). He was arrested in August 2014 on his way home, following a quarrel with a man who Haziyev alleges attacked him at a bus station. He was detained by police after defending himself with a glass bottle, charged with hooliganism, and held in pre-trial detention until his sentence in 2015. Haziyev had challenged his pre-trial detention four times, each of which was dismissed by courts on the grounds that his detention as a preventive measure was necessary and lawful.

The ECHR judgment now found the journalist’s detention between 29 October and 11 November 2014 unlawful because it had not been based on a court order, thus violating Article 5 § 1, the right to liberty and security. The court further established that Azerbaijani authorities did not justify the need for Haziyev's pre-trial detention, violating Article 5 § 3, the entitlement to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Haziyev further challenged his detention based on Article 18, arguing that Azerbaijani authorities had ulterior motives for arresting him, but the court hold that there was no need to separately examine his complaint under this Article in conjunction with Article 5.

Prior to his 2014 arrest, Haziyev has reportedly been harassed by police and intimidated for being outspoken against the presidential administration several times. Rights organizations and activists have criticized his detention and prison sentence as politically motivated, suggesting that the journalist was punished for uncovering ‘a brutal authoritarian regime that systematically stifles dissent’.

Haziyev is featured in #SetThemFree, a campaign that strives to build solidarity with political prisoners by shedding light on their lives and stories.

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