Georgian Journalists, Rights Defenders Protest Kidnapping of Mukhtarli

Several representatives of human rights associations as well as journalists gathered in front of the Georgian Government Chancellery building in Tbilisi in solidarity with Afgan Mukhtarli, the Azerbaijani investigative journalist disappeared who from Tbilisi on April 29.

According to his lawyer Elchin Sadigov, Afgan Mukhtarli is now in the custody of the Investigative Unit of the State Border Service of Azerbaijan.  

Leyla Mustafayeva, Mukhtarli’s wife, said that Georgian authorities should have protected her husband, but they failed to do so.

“Georgian authorities had to protect him, but they did not do it. And Georgian authorities have sacrificed freedom of speech…. I want a fair investigation because yesterday at the police department we could not see the CC cameras”, she said to journalists during the rally at the Chancellery.

Mukhtarli is now accused by Azerbaijani authorities of illegally crossing the border carrying around $11,000. According to OC-Media, the case should be discussed in court today.

Mustafayeva said that her husband’s passport is still in Tbilisi.

“This is a deeply sinister development in a country known for its long crackdown on journalists and human rights defenders. Afgan Mukhtarli must be immediately and unconditionally released and protected from torture and other ill-treatment. He is a prisoner of conscience detained solely for his work as a journalist,” said Levan Asatiani, Amnesty International’s Campaigner on the South Caucasus, who is currently in Tbilisi.

Afgan Mukhtarli and Leyla Mustafayeva came to Tbilisi in 2015 scared of being persecuted for their investigation activities in Azerbaijan. Mustafayeva told journalists during a press conference that both her and her husband were investigating the financial interests of Azerbaijani president.

Ucha Nanuashvili, the Public Defender of Georgia, said in an official statement that Georgian authorities should promptly react to the case.

“The law enforcement agencies should urgently and effectively respond to the mentioned case. First of all, it is important the state to take all measures to prevent the crime in a timely manner, and then to bring offenders to justice and adequately punish them.  The Georgian state shall ensure full protection of the rights of all persons living on its territory. The developments ongoing in the neighboring states should not affect the respect for human rights in the Georgian state. All persons living in Georgia should have a sense of security and lawful and fair treatment. There should be no suspicion that the state turns a blind eye to a crime or neglects the disappearance of Afgan Mukhtarl”, an official statement reads.

Photographs from JAMnews, photographer: David Pipia.

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