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Azerbaijani Journalist Wanted By Baku Leaves Ukraine After Months Of Uncertainty


Fikrat Huseynli holds up his Dutch passport outside a Kyiv court on April 16.

An Azerbaijani journalist and rights defender who has been pursued by Baku since he fled his homeland under pressure a decade ago has left Ukraine for the Netherlands, where he has citizenship, colleagues say.

Fikrat Huseynli traveled out of Ukraine on April 17, Qanimat Zahid -- chief of KanalTuran TV, which is run by Azerbaijan's opposition Popular Front Party -- told RFE/RL.

Huseynli fled to the Netherlands in 2008 after he was stabbed, beaten, and left for dead by unknown assailants in Baku in 2006. He was later granted political asylum and became a Dutch citizen.

His return to the Netherlands from Ukraine followed an ordeal that raised concerns among activist that he could be deported to Azerbaijan, where he is wanted on what government critics say are politically motivated fraud and illegal border-crossing charges.

Ukrainian authorities stopped Huseynli from boarding a flight to Germany at Boryspil International Airport in Kyiv in October, seizing his documents under an Interpol red notice requested by the Azerbaijani government.

He was arrested, then released several days later but ordered not to leave Ukraine before a final decision on his possible extradition to Azerbaijan was made.

Ukrainian prosecutors in Kyiv requested that he be arrested again, but on April 2 a Kyiv district court judge ruled that he should not be extradited to Azerbaijan or have his travel restricted.

However, prosecutors kept Huseynli's Dutch passport to prevent his return to the Netherlands.

On April 4, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Ukrainian authorities to "immediately" return Huseynli's Dutch passport.

"Ukraine must not succumb to the demands of Azerbaijan's authoritarian regime, which is notorious for persecuting critics both at home and abroad," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program coordinator Nina Ognianova said.

A lawyer for Huseynli, Dmytro Mazurok, told RFE/RL that he had obtained his client's passport from Kyiv's Pechera district court on April 16.

A court hearing had been scheduled on April 19 to hear a request lodged by his lawyer for the travel ban to be lifted.

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