Amnesty International says it is cutting ties with former jailed Azerbaijani journalist Eynulla Fatullayev.
The press-freedom advocate was imprisoned in 2007 on charges of libel and terrorism and, later, drug-related offenses. He was released from prison by a presidential pardon in 2011.
Amnesty had led an international campaign for Fatullayev’s release, named him a prisoner of conscience, and awarded him its Special Award for Human Rights Journalism Under Threat.
But the London-based group now says it has been “forced to cease cooperation” with Fatullayev after he “misled the organization about the source of funding for a project.”
In a statement, Amnesty also said Fatullayev used Amnesty's name to attract support for an event it was not involved in and accused him of trying to paint Germany as a rights abuser on a par with Azerbaijan.
The rights group said that last month it declined Fatullayev’s invitation to participate in a research project on human rights abuses in Germany.
Despite that, the statement says, Fatullayev tried to attract support for an event organized on January 21 in Brussels for the launch of his report by claiming Amnesty was involved.
Not Certain Of Purpose
Asked why Amnesty declined to cooperate in the project, researcher Natalia Nozadze told RFE/RL: "We were not certain about, you know, the funds and resources, who was funding this event, and what purpose it was serving."
In its statement, Amnesty quoted the Black Sea Trust of the German Marshall Foundation as denying Fatullayev’s claim that it was involved in the funding of his project.
Nozadze said Amnesty had been following Fatullayev’s case as a former prisoner of conscience but didn’t have any formal cooperation with him or his nongovernmental human rights organization, the Public Union For Human Rights.
Fatullayev harshly criticized Amnesty’s statement, accusing the group of retaliating for his criticism of the human rights situation in Germany.
In a statement, Fatullayev said there seems to be a group of “untouchable countries” that cannot be criticized, which he says is “against the philosophy of European values.”
"I'm very concerned that such a famous organization as Amnesty International took the floor against the monitoring of Germany," he told RFE/RL in Strasbourg. "Every person willing to monitor or research the situation in Germany, in the United States, for example, or in other countries, can [do] it."
Fatullayev said his organization will next look at the human rights record of Ukraine, France, and Belarus.
Amnesty responded to Fatullayev’s criticism, saying it has issued a number of critical reports on human rights abuses in Germany.
It also said it “entirely respects” Fatullayev’s right to express his views on any country. But it dismisses as “misleading” his “attempt to portray the extent and gravity of human rights abuses in Germany as on a par with violations in Azerbaijan.”
The controversy comes as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) votes on January 23 on two resolutions calling on Azerbaijan’s government to end its policy of using harassment, assault, and imprisonment to silence critical voices.
Fatullayev was once the co-editor of two influential opposition newspapers -- the Russian-language weekly "Realny Azerbaijan" (Real Azerbaijan) and the Azeri-language daily "Gundelik Azerbaycan" (Daily Azerbaijan).
Last year, he won UNESCO’s prestigious Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
RFE/RL's Merhat Sharipzhan contributed to this report