Turan director remains in custody despite appeal from prominent supporters

On 6 September, a Baku court rejected Turan Information Agency director Mehman Aliyev's appeal to be released on bail. Before the hearing, a group of prominent journalists, academics, politicians, and cultural figures published an open letter in support of the imprisoned journalist. The letter was addressed to President Ilham Aliyev and defended Mehman Aliyev's character, but to no avail.

At 2:30 pm on September 6, the Yasamal District Court in Baku considered a petition from Mehman Aliyev's defense team to release the journalist on bail. The court rejected Aliyev's appeal despite guarantees from his family and a letter of support from a group of prominent Azerbaijanis.

The open letter was addressed to President Ilham Aliyev:

Dear Mr President!

As members of the Azerbaijani public, we kindly ask you to pay attention to the case of the arrested director of Turan news agency, Mehman Aliyev.

This person has provided great services to the development of this country's media. He is known around the world as an authoritative journalist and media expert. Mehman Aliyev himself and the news agency he leads have received numerous awards.

Turan news agency played an active part in breaking the information blockade around Azerbaijan and telling the world community the truth about the Karabakh conflict. Turan news agency was the first to report on the Khojaly tragedy to the world. Turan's rare archives and the creative support of members of staff of the news agency were widely used during the making of the documentary 'Endless Corridor', which is about the tragedy. It was owing to this international project that over half a billion people around the world learnt about the Khojaly tragedy.

It is not plausible that Mehman Aliyev is under arrest due to his alleged evasion of investigation, because he did not avoid the investigation but, on the contrary, he cooperated with it from the very beginning.

Mr President,

We express concern over the fate of a journalist who is well-known to the public. We ask you to help ensure that the investigation is unbiased and to help change the measure of restraint in the form of arrest against Mehman Aliyev.

The signatories to the appeal are Anar Rzayev, chairman of the Union of Azerbaijani Writers (better known simply as Anar); MPs Rasim Musabayov, Asim Mollazade, and Fazil Mustafa; Tofig Zulfugarov, former foreign minister; Farhad Badalbeyli, chairman of the Union of Azerbaijani Musicians; Chingiz Abdullayev, secretary of the Union of Azerbaijani Writers; Sabir Rustamkhanli, Azerbaijani people's poet; Ramiz Fataliyev, film director and screenwriter; Hamlet Isakhanli, rector of Khazar University; Farda Asadov, orientalist; Nureddin Mehdikhanli, Azerbaijani people's artist; Elchin Shikhli, chairman of the Union of Azerbaijani Journalists; Arif Aliyev, chairman of New Generation Union of Journalists; and Gulu Maharramli, head of the Centre for Support for the Development of Journalism.

On 25 August, the Azerbaijani Tax Ministry's department for the preliminary investigation of tax crimes launched criminal proceedings against Mehman Aliyev under articles 213.1 (tax evasion) and 308.1 (abuse of power) of the Criminal Code of the Azerbaijani Republic. In addition, Aliyev was charged with Article 192.2 (illegal business) of the Criminal Code of the Azerbaijani Republic.

International organizations have condemned the arrest of Mehman Aliyev and called for his immediate release. The US Department of State also called for the immediate release of Mehman Aliyev. The French, British, and German foreign ministries expressed concern about the arrest of Aliyev and urged the Azerbaijani government to honour its international commitments regarding human rights.

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