Meydan TV Journalist in Custody for Reasons Unknown (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Minutes after 7:00 PM local time, Shirin Abbasov was sentenced to 30 days in administrative detention for disobeying the police after nearly thirty hours in custody.

Shirin Abbasov, a nineteen year-old Azerbaijani journalist and regular Meydan TV contributor, disappeared on his way to his university early yesterday afternoon. For more than eight hours, his family, friends, and colleagues tried in vain to contact him, but his phone appeared to be switched off and he did not reply to emails. The search ended shortly after midnight, when officials from the Ministry of the Interior's General Directorate for Combating Organized Crime confirmed they had Abbasov into custody.

Declining to provide details on the reason for or timing of Abbasov's arrest, officials told Meydan TV they would provide an explanation only to Abbasov's parents, and then only in person at the ministry the following morning.

Despite the ministry's statement, over twenty-four hours after Abbasov's disappearance, no explanation has been provided for his arrest, he has not been permitted contact with the outside world, and he has been denied access to his lawyer. Reports in local media have speculated that charges will be filed, although it is unclear how the ministry might try to connect Abbasov to organized crime. His lawyer worries he may be under pressure to sign a false confession.

Also yesterday, Aytaj Akhmedova, another freelance journalist and regular Meydan TV contributor, was detained by the same department along with a friend and questioned for five hours before being released. Akhmedova reported being asked about Meydan TV's activities, its management and salary structure, and its coverage of the August protests in the city of Mingachevir. The reported line of questioning was identical to the what several other Meydan TV reporters were asked by the General Prosecutor's office earlier this month.

In June, Abbasov was one of four Meydan TV journalists denied exit from Azerbaijan and told they were on a government “blacklist,” although the government backtracked and attributed the incident to an administrative mixup.

This post will be updated in the event new information becomes available.

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