Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on September 23 called on the Azerbaijani authorities to release Meydan TV contributor Shirin Abbasov immediately and “take swift action against those responsible for the violations of his right to liberty and security and basic detainee rights.”
The 19-year-old journalist has been held incommunicado without access to a lawyer since his detention on September 16. HRW called his detention illegal.
“Holding Shirin Abbasov in incommunicado arbitrary detention is outrageous and raises real concern that he may be ill-treated,” said
, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This is an escalation in the Azerbaijan government’s campaign to silence independent media.”
A person close to Abbasov’s family with knowledge of the case told Human Rights Watch that officials from the Interior Ministry’s organized crime unit have confirmed that Abbasov is being held at their headquarters, known as “Bandhotel.” Azerbaijani law only allows authorities to hold detainees in temporary detention facilities such as police stations for 72 hours.
As reported earlier, Abbasov went missing at 2pm on September 16 on his way to university. His family could not reach him for hours. Shortly after midnight, officials from the Interior Ministry’s organized crime unit confirmed to Abbasov’s family that he was in their custody. They refused to explain the reason for Abbasov’s arrest, saying they would tell his parents at a meeting the next morning. At the meeting, Interior Ministry officials claimed that Abbasov did not want to see them or anyone else.
Meydan TV reported earlier that Abbasov was sentenced to 30 days in administrative detention for disobeying the police. According to HRW, however, an individual with knowledge of the case said that Abbasov’s lawyer had requested documentation of the proceedings, but the court responded that it had no record of administrative or criminal cases against Abbasov.
According to HRW, incommunicado detention, as well as violating due process rights, places detainees at an enhanced risk of ill-treatment.
“The attacks on journalists working with Meydan TV, one of the last sources of independent news about Azerbaijan, shows that the government is going to great lengths to stamp out any remaining critical voices,” Buchanan said. “The European Union and Azerbaijan’s other international partners should call for Abbasov’s urgent release and make clear that there is a price to pay for trampling fundamental freedoms.”