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Azerbaijani Journalists, Activists Refused Meetings In Naxcivan

Azerbaijani journalist and writer Shahvalad Cobanoglu

Azerbaijani journalist and writer Shahvalad Cobanoglu

NAXCIVAN, Azerbaijan -- Azerbaijani journalists and human rights activists who travelled to the Azerbaijani exclave of Naxcivan were unable to meet with the region's ombudsman and National Security Ministry officials, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

The group had hoped on September 12 to get National Security Ministry clarification of the circumstances in which Turaj Zeynalov was found dead in late August after being summoned to the ministry.

But they were informed by a man who said he worked for the ministry's press service that they would not be granted a meeting with officials because they had nothing to tell the group.

The journalists and activists encountered problems from the start of the trip -- which was funded by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry -- when several taxi drivers at Naxcivan airport refused to drive them.

Some locals also said they had received phone calls from unidentified people who warned them "not to complain to the mission" and pledged that "all their problems would be resolved."

The group did manage to attend the trial of a local human rights activist, Hekimeldostu Mehdiyev, who was accused of stealing electricity.

The only major incident occurred on September 12 when the group received a warning that it should leave Naxcivan. They did so in accordance with their original schedule early on September 13.

Journalist Shahvalad Cobanoglu told RFE/RL on September 12 that a policeman told the group while they were sitting in a park that an official at the Interior Ministry wanted to meet them as the ombudsman had complained that the group "violated public order" while visiting his office, where they were denied a meeting.

Cobanoglu said the group members explained to the police officer that they had not behaved inappropriately and simply wanted to meet with the ombudsman.

Several journalists and human rights activists who travelled to Naxcivan in recent months have been deported.

The most recent deportee was RFE/RL correspondent Yafez Hasanov in early September.

Read more in Azeri here