TBILISI -- Georgia's opposition United National Movement party is calling for the interior minister and State Security Service chief to resign over what activists say was the cross-border abduction of an Azerbaijani investigative journalist.
Lawmaker Salome Samadashvili said in parliament on May 31 that Georgian authorities bear full responsibility for the fate of Afqan Muxtarli, who disappeared in Georgia on May 29 and turned up in custody in Azerbaijan the next day.
Muxtarli had lived in self-imposed exile in Georgia since 2015. His lawyer Elcin Sadyqov says his client was abducted in Tbilisi, tied up in a car, beaten by Georgian-speaking men in civilian clothing, and brought across the border into Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General's Office spokesman Eldar Sultanov said on May 31 that Muxtarli was detained on suspicion of illegally crossing the border, and that a large amount of cash was found in his possession. He said that Muxtarli resisted police.
Sadyqov said he saw bruises on Muxtarli’s face and forehead. His client complained of "severe pain" and said he thought that his ribs were broken, the lawyer added.
International rights defenders and Western governments have criticized Azerbaijan's government for what they say have been persistent clampdowns targeting independent journalists and rights defenders.
President Ilham Aliyev, who has been president of the oil-rich South Caucasus nation of almost 10 million people since shortly before his long-ruling father's death in 2003, has shrugged off the criticism.