A journalist critical of Azerbaijan’s president was arrested three weeks before the presidential election for allegedly possessing illegal weapons.
Parviz Hashimli’s lawyer said the weapons were planted and that the government sent the reporter to jail for two months in an attempt to silence him.
Hashimli was at the office of the news website Moderator on Sept. 17 when a man he didn’t know called him and asked the reporter to go outside to solve a personal matter, according to news reports. When Hashimli approached Tavvakyul Gurbanov’s car, National Security Agents surrounded the vehicle and searched it. They found six guns and ammunition. Gurbanov told the agents the weapons belonged to the journalist and that he was only delivering Hashimli’s order. They were both arrested.
Hashimli works for the independent newspaper Bizim Yol and is an editor for Moderator. He is also a human rights activist and a member of the opposition party Popular Front. Agents also raided Hashimli’s house – without a court order – and found a pistol and several grenades, authorities and relatives said.
In addition to the arrest, agents also confiscated computers, equipment and documents from Moderator’s office. Hashimli’s lawyer, Elchin Sadigov, said the arrest was illegal and the charges are unfounded.
President Ilham Aliyev is running for a third term, and Hashimli will be in jail when the election takes place on Oct. 9.
"Imprisoning a critical journalist and harassing his publications just weeks before the country's presidential vote is a cowardly move and does a disservice to both Azerbaijan's public and the government", said Nina Ognianova, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Europe and Central Asia Program coordinator.
Azerbaijan has at least nine journalists in jail, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
By Julia Lugon