On Friday Turkish authorities deported Mahir Zeynalov, Azerbaijani-national columnist for Today’s Zaman. According to Zaman, the deportation was carried out because of Zeynalov’s criticism of the Turkish government and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally.
his opinion piece
published today on Al Arabia, Zeynalov claimed his immigration documents were intact and his residence permit allowed him to stay until March 10. Married to a Turkish citizen, Zeynalov is also legally allowed to apply for Turkish citizenship and receive it within a year and a half.
“Deporting a foreigner over critical tweets is a first in the history of journalism and constitutes a black stain on Turkey’s hard-won democratic record – a precious system of checks and balances we are rapidly losing these days,” Zeynalov wrote, “For Erdogan, everyone is a traitor except those who give him a round of applause.”
According to Zeynalov it was not Erdogan’s first attempt to silence him. In December last year Prime Minister sued Zeynalov over two tweets he reshared on Twitter. The tweets contained links to news reports on Saudi businessman Yasin al-Qadi, who is suspected in involvement with Al-Qaeda and whose arrest was prevented by pro-Erdogan police. News sources cite Prime Minister’s official complaint, according to which the tweets included “heavy insults and swear words in a bid to provoke the nation to hatred and animosity” and “committed a crime by exceeding the limit of criticism.”
Zeynalov is currently in Azerbaijan with his wife.