Imprisoned journalist wins right not to sit in cage in court

On 30 November a preliminary hearing was held in the case of Afgan Mukhtarli, an investigative journalist accused of smuggling and crossing the border illegally.

The hearing was held in the Balakan, a region of Azerbaijan near the Georgian border where Mukhtarli allegedly entered the country illegally.

The court rejected every motion put forward by the defense except one: Mukhtarli will be allowed to sit with his lawyers at trial. (In Azerbaijan, defendants are often forced to sit in cages in the courtroom.) All other motions were rejected, including requests to obtain surveillance video from the Georgian authorities along the root Mukhtarli allegedly traveled, and to obtain video from the cell where Mukhtarli was first held in Azerbaijan.

According to ifact.ge, Mukhtarli was "vocal and hostile" towards prosecutor Gurbat Mammadov and judge Humbar Salimov. Upon leaving the courtroom, Mukhtarli reportedly told a Georgian journalist, "This isn't a trial. It's a show."

The next hearing is scheduled to be held on 14 December.

On 29 May, Afgan Mukhtarli disappeared in Tbilisi, Georgia, only to reappear under arrest in Baku. Azerbaijani authorities have charged Mukhtarli with crossing the border into Azerbaijan illegally, smuggling (he was allegedly carrying $10,000 at the time of his arrest), and resisting the orders of a police officer. The journalist himself has stated that he was kidnapped in Tbilisi and brought to Azerbaijan against his will.

Mukhtarli is an investigative journalist who has published several pieces at Meydan TV. His last contribution before his arrest was an article about politically-motivated kidnappings in Azerbaijan.

A courtroom cage in Azerbaijan

A courtroom cage in Azerbaijan

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