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10.12.2018

Azerbaijani journalist detained for five months ‘without justification’

By Emil Weber 

Award-winning journalist Seymur Mashgul oglu Haziyev was deprived of freedom for nearly five months between 2014 and 2015 without justification, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on 6. December 2018. 

Human Rights Court Human Rights Court in Straßbourg (Picture by Trygve W Nodeland via Wikimedia Commons)

Haziyev, at the time, was working for a satellite TV program that is critical towards the government and writing for the Azadliq newspaper. He was also a member of the opposition Popular Front Party. He won a “Free Media Award” in 2016 for independent journalism in Eastern Europe issued by the Fritt Ord Foundation and ZEIT-Stiftung.

 

While waiting at a bus station on 29 August 2014, a person had approached him asking him to explain why he had not responded to a Facebook message. Haziyev claims that after he was physically assaulted, he acted to defend himself. 

 

The police appeared at the scene and Haziyev, who says he asked for help from the police, was accompanied to the Absheron District Police Office and was subsequently charged the next day for hooliganism for hitting the person on head with a bottle of water and kicking him in the face. 

 

The Absheron District Court ordered his detention for two months pending trial, arguing that there was a likelihood that Haziyev “will obstruct the investigation’s functioning by influencing other participants in the criminal proceedings and reoffending.”

 

The courts, including the Sumgayit Court of Appeal, refused his request to be released on bail or placed under house arrest. Haziyev had further claimed that the order was not justified since he had no criminal record and there was no proof that he would obstruct the investigation.

Although his detention period ended on October 29, he had been kept in detention pending trial and the Absheron District Court refused his repeated requests to be kept under house arrest on November 11. The same court decided on November 20 that the order should remain unchanged without providing any justification.  

On 29 January 2015, the court sentenced him to five years of imprisonment. 

Unauthorised detention

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has now ruled that Haziyev’s detention during the period between 29 October and 11 November 2014 amounted to a violation of article 5.1 of the European Convention which says that no one can be deprived of liberty without lawful procedures. The court said:

"The applicant was detained in the absence of any judicial order authorising his detention". 

 In relation to the entirety of Haziyev’s detention, the top European human rights court found there was a violation of article 5.3 of the same Convention which, among others, says that release from the detention “may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial”.

“[The domestic courts] in an abstract and stereotyped way, limited themselves to repeating the risk of the applicant reoffending and obstructing the investigation as grounds for detention, without giving any reasons why they considered those grounds relevant to the applicant’s case”, the court ruled.

The court also said that the decision to continue detaining the journalist in jail pending trial “without any reasoning” after 11 November 2014 was contrary to article 5 of the European Convention.

It ordered the Azerbaijani government to pay 14,500 Euros to the journalist for non-pecuniary damages and costs.  

In the Reporters Without Borders Media Freedom Index, Azerbaijan ranks at place 163  among 180 nations.

Case of Haziyev v. Azerbaijan, application no. 19842/15. 6 December 2018



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