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Wednesday 20 September 2017

Azerbaijani Tax Officials Reinstate Claim Against Turan News Agency

  • RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service
Turan director Mehman Aliyev was arrested in late August and charged with tax evasion and abuse of powers.

Azerbaijan's embattled Turan news agency says the authorities have reinstated a tax claim against the independent news outlet.

BAKU -- Azerbaijan's embattled Turan news agency says the authorities have reinstated a tax claim against the independent news outlet.

Turan said in a statement on September 19 that the Department of Local Revenues in Baku had informed the agency that a claim that it owes 37,000 manats ($21,500) in unpaid taxes and penalties for 2014-16 had been reinstated.

No reason was given for the move. On September 12, the department had informed Turan that the tax claim had been dropped and its frozen assets had been unblocked.

Turan director Mehman Aliyev was arrested in late August and charged with tax evasion and abuse of powers. He was released from pretrial detention and placed under house arrest on September 12.

Turan was established in 1990 and has published online reports in Azerbaijani, English, and Russia. It also has cooperated with leading international news agencies about stories in Azerbaijan.

Rights and media group have accused Azerbaijan of using tax-evasion allegations to pressure Turan.

Giorgi Gogia, the South Caucasus director of Human Rights Watch, said earlier this month that the case against Turan's Aliyev was "the latest in a vicious crackdown on critical media in the country."

Azerbaijan is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders' 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

Leyla Mustafayeva attends a rally in Tbilisi in May.

The wife of an Azerbaijani journalist who had sought refuge in Georgia but disappeared and reappeared in custody in Baku has urged Georgian authorities to do more to investigate his plight.

TBILISI -- The wife of an Azerbaijani journalist who had sought refuge in Georgia but disappeared and reappeared in custody in Baku has urged Georgian authorities to do more to investigate his plight.

Leyla Mustafayeva told reporters in Tbilisi on September 19 that her husband, Afqan Muxtarli, was followed by the same people days before he disappearing on May 29.

A day later, Azerbaijani authorities said he was in custody in Baku on suspicion of illegally crossing the border and smuggling money.

Mustafayeva said that Georgian investigators and the prosecutor's office, who vowed to investigate her spouse's abduction, had not achieved any noticeable results, and called on Georgian officials to increase their efforts to find the people she believes abducted her husband.

Muxtarli's lawyer, Archil Chopikashvili, who was with Mustafayeva, told journalists that his client's "abduction" in Georgia and incarceration in Azerbaijan were politically motivated, as he was well-known for his writing about high-level government corruption in Azerbaijan.

International rights defenders and Western governments have called on Baku to release Muxtarli.

European lawmakers passed a resolution in June calling on Azerbaijani authorities to immediately release Muxtarli and drop all charges against him.

Muxtarli and his wife fled to Georgia in 2015, fearing for their safety over his investigations into Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's alleged links to corruption.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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