In his first interview after being released from prison yesterday, journalist Eynulla Fatullayev told RFE's Azerbaijan Service, Radio Azadliq, "We cannot let independent, critical journalism disappear in Azerbaijan."
Fatullayev was pardoned as part of a presidential amnesty marking the anniversary of the first independent Republic of Azerbaijan, 1918 - 1920. In a high-profile case, he was sentenced to eight and one-half years in prison in 2007 after being found guilty of terrorism, defamation and incitement to racial hatred, charges that international organizations and foreign governments rejected as politically motivated. The European Court of Human Rights found that his trial was unfair and dismissed the charges in 2010. Azerbaijan defied that court's ruling and extended his sentence on new charges of drug possession last year.
Fatullayev called his release a "miracle," and thanked local and international organizations for their efforts to press for his freedom. In his interview he said that he listened to Radio Azadliq in prison. "I love Radio Azadliq. You're one of those who saved my life," he added.
Radio Azadliq reported extensively on Fatullayev's arrest and trials, interviewed him in prison and aired several letters that he had written while behind bars.
Fatullayev was the editor of Realny Azarbaycan and Gundalik Azarbaycan, both independent dailies that published criticism of the government and which were closed after Fatullayev's arrest. He also worked with independent magazine editor Elmar Huseynov, who was murdered in 2005 in a case that remains unsolved.
At the news of Fatullayev's release, Kenan Aliyev, Director of Radio Azadliq, said "Eynulla was the last journalist in an Azeri prison, and we hope there will be no more."
Reported by RFE's Azerbaijani Service.