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Azerbaijani Blogger Released From Jail After Serving Two Years

Freed Azerbaijani Blogger: I Will Continue 'Until The End'
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Freed Azerbaijani Blogger: I Will Continue 'Until The End'

The Azerbaijani anti-corruption blogger Mehman Huseynov is free after fully serving a two-year prison sentence in a case that sparked international outrage and critics said was politically motivated.

Huseynov was released from prison on March 2, RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service reported.

Huseynov was convicted of libel for saying he had been mistreated by police in January 2017.

Shortly after being released, Huseynov visited the grave in Baku of Elmar Huseynov, an Azerbaijani journalist who was shot dead exactly 14 years ago in 2005.

"I came here today to visit Elmar Huseynov's grave. I think there must be journalists who will continue doing what he did," he said. "And I have chosen this way for myself. I have chosen the hardest path in journalism and will continue doing this until the end."​

Harlem Desir, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, welcomed the news of Huseynov's release on Twitter.

In late December, Huseynov was facing even more possible prison time when authorities charged him with "resisting a representative of the authorities with the use of violence dangerous to [the representative's] health and life."

His lawyer, Shahla Humbatova, said at the time Huseynov could have faced up to seven more years in prison if convicted on that fresh charge.

However, Azerbaijani authorities dropped the new case on January 22, following protests and outrage from activists in Azerbaijan and abroad.

The move came after large-scale demonstrations in Baku in support of Huseynov and the adoption of a European Parliament resolution calling for his immediate release.

Huseynov has maintained his innocence and called the original case against him politically motivated.

Just weeks before being convicted of libel, Huseynov posted photographs of luxury homes he alleged belonged to government officials and lawmakers, and had been critical of President Ilham Aliyev's appointment of his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, to the post of first vice president.

Thousands of people demonstrated in Baku on January 19, calling for Huseynov's release. The police put the total number of participants in the sanctioned rally at 2,800, but opposition organizers said the real number was 20,000.

Rights groups and Western governments have urged the Azerbaijani authorities to release political prisoners for years and have accused the government of fabricating criminal cases to stifle dissent and media freedom.

Aliyev, who has ruled the oil-producing former Soviet republic of almost 10 million people with an iron fist since shortly before his long-ruling father's death in 2003, has shrugged off the criticism.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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