Defense lawyer Fuad Aghayev told Meydan TV that the director of Turan Information Agency, Mehman Aliyev, has been detained as a suspect in the ongoing case against Turan.
‘Mehman Aliyev has so far been a witness and I have accompanied him as the representative of a witness,’ Aghayev said. ‘The fact that Mehman Aliyev has been detained as a suspect means that his procedural status has changed. In other words, charges will be filed against the director of Turan news agency in the next 48 hours.’
Fuad Aghayev said he would obtain a warrant of attorney on 25 August and start the defense.
The Tax Ministry’s department for preliminary investigation of tax crimes has launched criminal proceedings against Turan news agency under articles 231.1 (tax evasion) and 308.1 (abuse of office) of the Criminal Code. Preliminary investigation is said to have started.
Mehman Aliyev was at the investigations department of the Tax Ministry giving a witness statement when he was detained. ‘However, his status later changed,’ his lawyer said.
Reporters Without Borders has issued a
condemning Aliyev’s arrest. ‘The authorities are stepping up the pressure on Turan because they have been unable to force it to cooperate,’ said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
Turan has issued a
that the agency ‘is forced to suspend its work for an indefinite period from September 1.’ The decision comes in the wake of Aliyev’s arrest and the freezing of Turan’s bank accounts. ‘In the near future, we will try to support the work of our website at the expense of our own resources and enthusiasm,’ the statement reads. ‘The news will be limited.’
The ministry launched a mobile tax audit of the news agency on 8 August. The news agency said that the tax audit came after the Baku Local Revenue Department issued a statement claiming that the news agency owed over 37,000 manats in back taxes. Turan denied the allegations and filed a suit with Baku’s Administrative Economic Court No. 1 regarding the tax audit. The lawsuit requests the court to rule that the ministry’s decisions regarding the news agency, including the conduct of the mobile tax audit, are illegal and void. The news agency believes that all these steps may be aiming to impede their operation and paralyze their work.
On 16 August, Tax Ministry officials visited the office of Turan news agency. They took away financial documents for 2014-16, several other documents and the accountant’s computer.
The director of Turan news Agency, Mehman Aliyev, described the developments as “a search”. He said that the tax officials went through their safes and discs and also the cabinets of some of members of staff.
Aliyev also stressed that they had made copies of their documents and prepared to provide them to the Tax Ministry. They had been given time to do so as well. However, ministry officials did not wait for that and came to news agency’s office.
On 17 August, the news agency was requested to provide documents for the last seven years. Lawyers consider this demand illegal.
Updated 25 August 2017, 13.02 GMT+4