BRUSSELS -- European lawmakers passed on June 15 a resolution calling on Azerbaijani authorities to immediately release journalist Afqan Muxtarli and drop all charges against him.
The document, backed by all the main political parties in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, condemned Muxtarli’s abduction in Georgia last month and his prosecution in Azerbaijan on “bogus charges.”
The MEPs expressed strong concern that the case is “another example of the Azerbaijani authorities targeting and persecuting critics living in exile and their relatives at home.”
They also urged the Georgian authorities to conduct a “prompt, thorough, transparent, and effective investigation” into Muxtarli’s disappearance and to “clarify beyond any doubt all suspicion regarding the involvement of Georgian state agents.”
Muxtarli and his wife fled to Georgia in 2015, fearing for their safety over his investigations into Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's alleged links to corruption.
He was reported missing in Tbilisi on May 29, and Azerbaijani authorities later said he was in custody in Baku on suspicion of illegally crossing the border and smuggling money.
Muxtarli, 43, was jailed for a preliminary three months by an Azerbaijani court.
Two parliamentary groups in the European Parliament, the center-right EPP and ECR, wanted to postpone the vote on the resolution, but the proposal was narrowly turned down. The EPP and ECR groups said they wanted to give a chance to the “EU's silent diplomacy” as the EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy Johannes Hahn is traveling to Baku on June 15.
The U.S. State Department has said the United States was "disturbed" by Muxtarli’s alleged abduction in Georgia and subsequent arrest in Azerbaijan.