Two international human rights bodies have denounced the Azerbaijani Supreme Court's failure to comply with a European Court of Human Rights ruling that jailed journalist Eynulla Fatullayev should be released, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both called on the Azerbaijani authorities to drop all charges against Fatullayev and free him immediately.
The Azerbaijani Supreme Court on November 11 annulled some charges against Fatullayev, including instigation of terrorism and interethnic enmity. But he remains in jail serving a subsequent sentence for illegal possession of drugs.
Fatullayev's lawyers say the annulment of the charges on which Fatullayev was originally sentenced automatically invalidates the drugs-related charge.
"The government has a clear obligation to release Fatullayev immediately and end this terrible miscarriage of justice," said Giorgi Gogia, South Caucasus researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Instead, the authorities are fabricating new ways to keep him imprisoned and openly flaunting their international commitments."
"The authorities are maneuvering to make it look like they have complied with the European Court's judgment, but no one is fooled," Gogia said. "It's clear that they are continuing to silence a journalist who has already served more than two years on a wrongful conviction."
"By sentencing Eynulla Fatullayev to a further prison term three months after the European Court ruling was made, Azerbaijan has clearly sought to side-step the Court's judgment," said John Dalhuisen of Amnesty International. "The authorities' blatant maneuvering shows how desperate they are to keep a prominent critic of the government behind bars. Eynulla Fatullayev must be released immediately."
Fatullayev was sentenced in 2007 to 8 1/2 years in jail on multiple charges which he says were fabricated in retaliation for his published articles criticizing the Azerbaijani authorities.
In April, the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights ruled that Fatullayev should be released and paid 25,000 euros ($34,212) compensation as Azerbaijan had violated his rights to freedom of expression and a fair trial. Three months later, Fatullayev was given a 2 1/2 year sentence for drugs
Fatullayev's lawyer Elchin Sadiqov told RFE/RL on November 13 that they will re-appeal the Supreme Court decision to the ECHR, and also ask the Baku Appeals Court to release Fatullayev on bail. That court is currently reviewing the sentence for possession of drugs handed down by a lower court in July.
Qanimat Zahid, editor of the opposition newspaper "Azadliq," told RFE/RL the government's purpose is to keep one journalist in jail to teach a lesson to journalists who remain at liberty. "The authorities are concerned that with no journalist in jail, freedom of expression would enter a new phase in this country. They will resort to any irregularities to keep a journalist in prison."
Zahid too has served a prison term on fabricated charges of hooliganism in retaliation for his criticism of the authorities.