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Jailed Azerbaijani Journalist Expects Another Prison Term


Eynulla Fatullayev in 2005

Eynulla Fatullayev in 2005

BAKU -- The trial of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev on charges of illegal possession of drugs while in prison has begun in a Baku court, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Fatullayev told the judge on April 9 at the start of his trial that he although he is innocent, he is certain he will be found guilty of the charges and sentenced to a fourth prison term.

Fatullayev was first jailed in 2007 for allegedly insulting the victims of the killings in Khojali -- where in 1992 Azeri civilians were killed by Armenian forces -- and subsequently on charges of instigating terrorism and tax evasion.

The consecutive prison terms add up to 8 and 1/2 years.

Fatullayev, who was editor of the independent newspaper "Realny Azerbaijan," claims the drugs were planted in his cell in December to create the pretext for keeping him in prison after the European Court of Human Rights issues a ruling on his appeal against his earlier convictions.

The court in Strasbourg is expected to announce its verdict this month.

Fatullayev demanded that further tests be conducted on blood samples that the prosecution claims prove he was using drugs, and that the experts who carry out those tests be summoned as witnesses together with fellow prisoners with whom he has regular contact.

The court has agreed to those requests.

International human rights organizations say Fatullayev's imprisonment is politically motivated and is "illegal." They have called on the authorities to release him.

Fatullayev was initially charged in 2007, months after he published an article in "Realny Azerbaijan" in which he accused senior Azerbaijani officials of ordering the 2005 killing of fellow journalist Elmar Huseynov.
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