An Azerbaijani court in Baku on March 17 ordered the release of investigative reporter Afqan Muxtarli from prison, commuting a six-year sentence, according to the media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
He was flown to Germany the same day where his wife, Leyla Mustafayeva, lives in exile, she told CPJ.
“We are relieved that Afqan Muxtarli is free and on his way to reunite with his family. But he should not have spent a single day in jail,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator.
“Azerbaijani authorities should release all remaining journalists from jail and allow them to report freely and safely. Those involved in Muxtarli's abduction from Georgia and unlawful imprisonment in Azerbaijan should be held responsible.”
Muxtarli was abducted in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, on May 29, 2017, and subsequently transferred to Azerbaijan, where he was convicted of smuggling, illegally crossing the border, and using force against a government official.
He has maintained his innocence and called the charges false.
Human Rights Watch has dismissed the charges as "politically motivated."
The journalist contributed to independent new outlets Meydan TV and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
He had lived in exile since 2014 before his kidnapping three years later.
In Tbilisi, he had held protests in front of Azerbaijan’s embassy and wrote about the persecution of Azerbaijani activists in Georgia.