Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (15 January) on the sentencing of the journalist Afgan Mukhtarli:
I have noted the sentencing of the journalist Afgan Mukhtarli to six years in prison with great concern. Afgan Mukhtarli was allegedly abducted from Georgia in May 2017 and illegally detained by the Azerbaijani security authorities.
Both the court proceedings and verdict call into question the right to a fair trial. This makes the situation regarding freedom of the press in Azerbaijan an even greater cause for concern than before.
Georgia’s undertaking to investigate Afgan Mukhtarli’s alleged abduction has not led to any results so far. I thus reiterate my call on both the Georgian and Azerbaijani side to conduct a serious investigation.
The Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, a critic of the Government who lived in Georgia, disappeared from the Georgian capital Tbilisi on the evening of 29 May 2017. On the following day, he reappeared in the Azerbaijani capital Baku, where he was detained and sentenced to six years in prison on 12 January 2018 by the district court in the provincial capital Balakan. The trial against him only started on 28 December 2017. The public prosecution office had called for Mukhtarli to be sentenced to eight years in prison for illegally crossing the border, resisting the state authorities and smuggling.