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Azerbaijan Drops Charges Against Turan News Agency, Director

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Mehman Aliyev

Azerbaijan's independent Turan News Agency says prosecutors have dropped all charges against it and its director.

The agency said that the Prosecutor-General's Office on November 2 informed the agency’s director, Mehman Aliyev, that Turan now can fully resume its operations.

Aliyev was also told that all restrictions that had been placed on his movements were lifted.

"Common sense prevailed thanks to the pressure that rights groups, the United States, and the European Union have exerted on the Azerbaijani government," Aliyev told the AFP news agency.

Turan's operations were largely suspended in September after Aliyev was detained in Baku on August 24 on charges of tax evasion and abuse of power.

Turan called the charges "trumped up" and the arrest was widely denounced as a politically motivated stifling of independent media by Western governments and rights groups.

Aliyev was released from pretrial detention and placed under house arrest on September 12, and Azerbaijani authorities days later reinstated their tax claim against the agency.

Turan was established in 1990. It publishes reports in Azerbaijani, English, and Russian, and cooperates with leading international news agencies.

President Ilham Aliyev, who has ruled the South Caucasus country of nearly 10 million people since shortly before his father's death in 2003, has been criticized for cracking down on media and civil rights in the former Soviet republic.

Azerbaijan is currently ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

With reporting by AFP
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