His wife reported him missing and stated that she talked to her husband last on the evening of that day when he told her that he was close to their house and then he didn’t show up. Later on, the media in Azerbaijan reported that the journalist was detained by the Azerbaijani border service department.
Independent journalist Khadija Ismayilova confirmed that he was kidnapped from his neighbourhood where he was forced into a car with his hands tied. “He was beaten, has a broken nose, bruises all over the head and his right eye and his rib may be broken.”, said his lawyer to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
He’s a freelance journalist who has collaborated with numerous independent media outlets, including Meydan TV and has published several critical articles about Azerbaijani President Aliyev and his family. Due to his reports about the president’s family and corruption, the government announced his arrest and so, he sought shelter in Georgia.
His lawyer stated that he is being charged with trespassing, smuggling and resistance to police; the Azerbaijani police also stated that during the police search Mukhtarli had 10 000 euros on him. The Georgian prosecutors refused to show footage from the street where Afqan was abducted, emphasising that he was taken at the border, and not in the centre of Tbilisi as the journalist claims.
The Independent Association of Georgian Journalists (IAGJ) sent us a statement from its President, Zviad
Azerbaijan is the strategic partner of Georgia and has great influence over Georgian society. The Azeri community is widely represented in Georgia and it’s very important for us to know that Azerbaijan respects freedom of expression and the rights of media. The arrest of Afqan Muxtarli damages Georgia and Azerbaijan equally. Trust towards governments of these two countries are questioned. Authorities need to respond adequately to the questions raised, Zviad Pochkhua.
We asked the Council of Europe, which condemned such action towards the journalist, for a comment and it sent us a statement from the Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, who called for an urgent release of the journalist:
I am appalled by what happened to Afgan Mukhtarli, an Azerbaijani journalist and activist, who has reportedly been abducted in Georgia and forcibly taken to Azerbaijan, where he is now facing prosecution for illegal crossing of the border and smuggling.
These are very serious allegations that require the utmost attention and urgent reaction by the Georgian authorities, which should carry out an effective, rapid and independent investigation into the events and take the necessary measures to act upon the results of the enquiry. In the meantime, Azerbaijan’s authorities must release Mr Mukhtarli without delay and ensure that he fully enjoys his human rights, including the protection from torture and ill-treatment.