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EU Lawmakers Urge Release Of Azerbaijani Journalist Muxtarli

Afqan Muxtarli is brought to court in Baku in June.
Afqan Muxtarli is brought to court in Baku in June.

BRUSSELS -- A letter signed by several members of the European Parliament condemning the treatment of imprisoned Azerbaijani journalist Afqan Muxtarli was sent on November 13 to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

The letter, signed by 47 lawmakers and seen by RFE/RL, condemns the prosecution of Muxtarli and demands his immediate release.

It was sent a week ahead of the Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels, where Aliyev is expected to meet with EU leaders.

"We regret to learn about the severe restrictions imposed on Mukhtarli to meet his relatives and make phone calls. During the first month of his imprisonment, Mukhtarli was not allowed to make a single phone call to his family, only after three months he was allowed to see his brother," the letter said.

The letter also expressed concern that Muxtarli's lawyers "had to endure physical abuse and the fact that some of their defense related material was being temporarily confiscated and read by the employees of penitentiary service."

Muxtarli was abducted in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, on May 29 and subsequently transferred to Azerbaijan, where he is currently awaiting trial on charges of illegal border crossing and smuggling, dismissed by Human Rights Watch as "politically motivated."

The letter states that "the release of Afghan Mukhtarli and all other political prisoners currently under arrest would show a genuine commitment of Azerbaijani authorities for the further cooperation and partnership with the European Union prior to the forthcoming Eastern Partnership Summit and beyond."

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

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