Baku Court of Grave Crimes sentenced Rauf Mirkadyrov, a well-known Azerbaijani journalist and contributor of the newspaper Zerkalo (Mirror), to 6 years in a colony of strict regime, Azerbaijani news agency Trend reports.
According to the report, the public prosecutor earlier demanded 7 years’ imprisonment for Mirkadirov. However, during the last hearing, the prosecutor asked the court to hand down a milder punishment to the journalist in accordance with the Article 62 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan, which offers a milder punishment for that concrete crime. The investigation was conducted by the Ministry of National Security.
Minval.az reports that Mirkadirov was charged under the Article 274 (high treason) of the Criminal Code. He is accused of taking part in the joint projects of the Institute for Peace of Democracy with the civil society groups of Armenia, and providing information supposed to be state secret during those events. The journalist denies the charge. Rights defenders consider him a political prisoner.
According to the website, the journalist’s deportation from Turkey to Azerbaijan, where he was immediately arrested on charges of espionage, drove the observers to maintain that Ankara and Baku might have been agreed on silencing their political opponents. When the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visited Baku in March, the Turkish media reported about a dossier allegedly handed to the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev which included the names of the Turkish citizens residing in Azerbaijan, who were to be arrested. Those reports were about the supporters of the Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the US. The Turkish authorities struggle against him both inside their country and abroad.
Rauf Mirkadyrov worked as a correspondent of the newspaper Zerkalo in Turkey. The Turkish authorities unexpectedly said he was deprived of the permission to work and had to leave the country immediately. According to the journalist, his pen fell ‘victim to a deal between Turkey and Azerbaijan.’
Minval.az further notes that Mirkadirov is not the only Azerbaijani journalist to be deported from Turkey. Mahir Zeynalov, well-known contributor for the Today’s Zaman daily, which is connected to Fethullah Gullen, was deported to Azerbaijan for unknown reasons in February.
Turan agency reports that the international community regards Mirkadirov as a prisoner of conscience as the real reason for his arrest was the authorities’ intention to convince the public of the spying and wrecking activities of Leyla Yunus, the rights defender, in whose projects Mirkadirov took part. According to the accusation, it were Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif who ‘recruited’ Rauf Mirkadirov as an Armenian spy. The charge of state treason against the couple was sent to separate proceedings, and they were sentenced on economic accusations. Consequently, their punishment was changed to conditional.
According to Report agency, Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on pardoning a number of sentenced individuals. Azay Guliyev, an MP from the commission on pardoning, said the decree was signed taking into account the appeals for pardoning addressed to the president by a number of sentenced people and their family members, authorised human rights representatives and organisations, as well as the individuals themselves, their health, family situation, their behaviour while serving the prison term, basing on the principles of humanism, in accordance with the 22nd item of the Article 109 of the Constitution of the Azerbaijani Republic. The pardoning list includes 210 people.
Meanwhile, Haqqin.az writes that the list of the convicts, pardoned by the presidential decree, included none of the political prisoners, on whose release the US Department of State, Council of Europe and other international groups insist.
On 23 December, a working group for compiling a comprehensive list of political prisoners issued a consecutive list of the Azerbaijani citizens regarded as political prisoners in the country. The list had 93 names, including well-known rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, political activists, religious leaders and others.