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Opposition Azerbaijani Columnist Says Was Abducted, Assaulted

Seymur Haziyev, a columnist for the opposition "Azadliq" newspaper
Seymur Haziyev, a columnist for the opposition "Azadliq" newspaper
BAKU -- An opposition youth activist and columnist in Azerbaijan says he was abducted and beaten up over the weekend in an attack he linked to his opposition activities, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Seymur Haziyev, a columnist for the opposition "Azadliq" newspaper, told RFE/RL the incident took place in Jeyranbatan, some 20 kilometers from Baku, as he was returning home from work after midnight on March 26.

"Six masked men forced me into a microbus that was waiting there, covered my head with a mask, and began beating and torturing me," Haziyev said. "They brought me to a newly-built home and uncovered my head. The sportsmen-like men were speaking Russian. Then they began dragging me in mud, also filming the whole process. They told me to live calmly as do all men in this country. They threatened me I might face more tragedies if I did not obey."

At a press conference held after the incident, Haziyev linked the assault to his critical articles in "Azadliq" newspaper and his ties with youth activists.

"I will never give up, even if I face the most dishonest insults," he said.

Haziyev said it was not the first time he had been assaulted because of his articles criticizing President Ilham Aliyev's domestic or foreign policies.

"I was kidnapped in 2005, was hung by my legs for two hours in a cellar; I was detained in 2010, was beaten in a detention center and was told not to write about Ilham Aliyev," he said.

Interior Ministry official Orkhan Mansurzadeh told RFE/RL the ministry press service had no information about the incident.

"If such an incident took place, that person should apply to the corresponding police department. Once submitted, the appeal will be investigated," he said.

But Haziyev said he would not go to the police as previous attacks on journalists have not been investigated.

Haziyev told RFE/RL on March 27 that he underwent a medical examination without telling the doctor that he had been assaulted. He said the doctor told him he had suffered a chest injury and advised him to rest for 10 days.

In an interview with RFE/RL, Rashid Hajili, head of the Media Rights Institute, said a new cycle of attacks on journalists began in Azerbaijan because of recent socio-political activity. "We have to take steps in order to be protected against this fear and danger," he said.

Europe's main security and rights body, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), has condemned the assault and called on the government to curtail violence against journalists.

Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE's media freedom representative, described the attack on Haziyev as "inadmissible."

Read more in Azeri here