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Azerbaijani journalist fined for defaming general

An Azerbaijani court has fined journalist Sakhavat Mammad on charges of defaming an army general.

The lawsuit has been brought by Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry General Ayaz Hasanov, who claims Mammad has damaged his ‘business reputation’ in his blog post.

The general is demanding 100,000 AZN, the maximum fine for moral damage. He also asked the money be transferred to the Armed Forces Support Foundation.

The Aghdam district court found Mammad guilty on July 31 and handed down a fine of 200 AZN, quite less what the general demanded.

Mammad, a journalist at yenicag.az, disagreed with the sentence. In an interview with RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service, he said that there was been nothing in his blog post that would damage the general's reputation.

“Ayaz Hasanov is an army officer and general. He is not a businessman so that [my blog] might hurt him somehow. I also told in the courtroom, let me know which officer has not spoken to him after the publication. Let him tell,” Mammad said adding he attended the trial without a lawyer.

In the blog post published on May 25, Mammad wrote about Najmaddin Sadigov, Chief of the General Staff of the Defense Ministry, stating that he would be soon -- after being promoted to a higher position -- replaced by his deputy Hasanov. Two days later on May 27, Mammad was arrested.

The Aghdam district court indicated that he was sentenced to 10 days of administrative detention for failing to meet his alimony payment.

But he claims he has been arrested for blogging about General Sadigov.

He was released upon the order of the Ganja Court of Appeal.

Rights groups say it is part of a continuing attempt to intimidate the media representatives and activists in the country.

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