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Azerbaijani Journalist Dies After Beating

Rasim Aliyev on August 8 in the hospital after his beating

An Azerbaijani journalist who was allegedly attacked and beaten by supporters of a local soccer player has died of his injuries.

Rasim Aliyev, 30, died in a Baku hospital on August 9 after being beaten the previous day, relatives said.

His sister, Gulnara Aliyeva, said he died from internal bleeding early on August 9 while in the intensive-care unit.

Aliyev's relatives believe the attack was carried out by supporters of soccer player Cavid Huseynov in retaliation for criticism of Huseynov that Aliyev posted on his Facebook page.

Huseynov has not commented on the incident.

After the beating and while in the hospital on August 8, Aliyev gave an interview to Meydan TV.

He said everything started when he criticized Huseynov for his behavior after his Azerbaijani club team, Qabala FK, played the Cypriot club Apollon in Cyprus in a UEFA Europa League match on July 30.

Huseynov was asked by a Greek journalist after the game why he had pulled out a Turkish flag.

Huseynov reportedly replied in a derogatory way and made a rude hand gesture to the reporter, saying that Azerbaijan and Turkey were friendly countries.

Aliyev wrote on his Facebook page that he did not want "someone this amoral, impertinent, and unable to control himself to represent me on European soccer fields."

Aliyev told Meydan that after his Facebook posting he received a call from someone claiming to be Huseynov's cousin, who yelled and swore at him on the phone.

Huseynov -- who also plays for the Azerbaijani national team -- later called Aliyev and told him he meant no offense to the Greek journalist but simply wanted to highlight the close Azerbaijani-Turkish relations.

The man who said he was Huseynov's cousin then called again, apologized for his earlier phone call, and said the two should discuss the situation over tea.

Aliyev eventually agreed to meet and drove to see the man.

After getting out of his car to shake his hand, Aliyev said he was suddenly attacked from behind and knocked to the ground. He said he was then kicked and beaten by six men for about 40 seconds.

Aliyev said they took his phone and wallet and ran away in different directions.

He was then taken to the hospital where doctors said he had four broken ribs, an ear injury, but was said not to have any damage to his internal organs.

His condition worsened overnight and doctors operated to remove his spleen. They said they also found an injury to a lung.

The international Sport For Rights movement issued a statement condemning the attack and calling on the authorities "to conduct a full and transparent investigation" into Aliyev's death.

Aliyev's father told reporters that he met with an assistant from the Baku prosecutor's office and was told they don't know the "identities of the killers" but that they would find them "in a few days."

The Interior Ministry said a criminal case on intentional infliction of bodily harm leading to death had been opened and an investigative team was looking into the case.

It added that the case is under the close supervision of the ministry and the prosecutor-general.

Ali Hasanov, an aide to President Ilham Aliyev, said the case "is being closely investigated and the perpetrators will be found."

Aliyev used to work for the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety, one of Azerbaijan's leading media-freedom organizations until it was forced to shut down last year after its bank account was frozen, office raided, and its director, Emin Huseynov, reportedly harrassed.

Aliyev said he had received threatening messages and been physically attacked for his reporting before the incident with Huseynov.