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European Court Rules Azerbaijan Should Release Jailed Journalist

Eynulla Fatullayev in a Baku court on April 9
Eynulla Fatullayev in a Baku court on April 9
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) today ruled that the Azerbaijani authorities should release journalist Eynulla Fatullayev from prison and pay him 25,000 euros ($33,512) in moral damages, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

The Strasbourg-based court said Azerbaijan had violated Fatullayev's rights to freedom of expression and a fair trial.

Fatullayev, editor of the independent newspaper "Realny Azerbaijan," was first jailed in 2007 for allegedly insulting Azerbaijanis killed in the February 1992 Khojali massacre, and subsequently on charges of instigating terrorism and tax evasion.

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

Fatullayev's father, Emin, told RFE/RL the court ruling is "fair" and he is satisfied with it. But Chingiz Asgarov, Azerbaijan's representative at the ECHR, said Azerbaijani officials will appeal the ruling to the ECHR's Grand Chamber. He said the ECHR is not empowered to issue orders to the courts of other countries.

Eynulla Fatullayev went on trial again on April 9 on charges of illegal possession of drugs. He claims the drugs were planted in his cell in December to create a pretext for keeping him in prison after the ECHR issued its ruling on his appeal against his earlier convictions.

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