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Pardoned Azerbaijani Journalist Says 'Deserved' Freedom

Qanimat Zahid after his release from prison in Baku
Qanimat Zahid after his release from prison in Baku
BAKU -- An Azerbaijani opposition journalist released from jail this week has told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that he "deserved" to be freed.

Qanimat Zahid, the editor in chief of "Azadliq" newspaper, was freed on March 17 three years into a four-year sentence for what supporters say were politically motivated charges of hooliganism.

Zahid said he was asked on his release what he wanted to say about the presidential pardon that freed him.

"I replied, 'I deserve freedom,'" he said.

Zahid said his imprisonment had violated not only his rights, but the rights of Azerbaijani society.

He said he had not wanted to ask for a pardon as he didn't want to seem angry or aggressive.

But he added: "My arrest -- it was their [authorities'] mistake. You simply can't do such things to people."

Zahid was among some 70 people pardoned by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.