Azerbaijan has detained two journalists investigating corruption in the political elite, a lawyer announced on Tuesday, in the latest case targeting the Caspian nation’s tightly controlled media.
In Azerbaijan, an energy-rich Caspian nation long ruled by the Aliyev dynasty, any sign of dissent is usually met with a harsh government response.
“On Tuesday, police detained Abzas Media editor-in-chief Seviny Vagifjidji, who returned to Baku from Europe, and searched his home,” lawyer Elchin Sadigov told AFP.
On Monday, the media’s director Urvi Hasanli was “detained and charged with foreign currency smuggling,” lawyer Jibeida Sadigova said.
“Mr. Hasanli has pleaded not guilty and denounced the charges as baseless,” Sadigova said, adding that his client “risks up to 12 years in prison.”
Abzas Media reported that Hasanli was “subjected to inhumane treatment” while in detention.
Human rights group Amnesty International said in a statement that it was “concerned” by reports that Hasanli had been beaten and abused while in custody.
His arrest “fits a pattern of arrests of critics by the authorities to silence dissent,” said Natalia Nozadze, a South Caucasus researcher at the human rights watchdog group.
He said Hassanly had “bravely exposed allegations of high-level corruption in Azerbaijan and raised important issues of public interest” and that in the past he had “faced repeated harassment from the government”. Stated.
In July, Azerbaijan arrested Gubad Ibadoglu, a prominent political economist and civil rights activist, on charges of various financial crimes, which he denounced as false.
He said his prosecution was in retaliation for exposing high-level corruption in Azerbaijan.
Amnesty International said Ibadoglu has serious health problems and his life is at risk “due to dangerous prison conditions and denial of adequate medical care.”
The government of President Ilham Aliyev, who has ruled the country with an iron fist since 2003 as successor to his father Heydar, has long faced international criticism over the country’s poor democratic record.