Baku Court of Appeals rejected an appeal on 30 August by Mehman Aliyev, the head of independent news outlet the Turan Information Agency, for the charges against him to be dropped. Aliyev was arrested last week on charges of ‘tax evasion’ and ‘abuse of power’; rights groups and several Western governments have called for his release.
Aliyev is currently being held in pretrial detention awaiting trial.
Azerbaijan’s Taxes Ministry opened an investigation into the agency on 7 August, and on 16 August raided Turan’s offices in Baku, confiscating financial, work, and personal records, and freezing their accounts.
Aliyev was summoned to the ministry for questioning on 24 August, where he was arrested and taken to Baku’s Yasamal District Police Station.
[Read more: Head of Azerbaijan’s Turan news agency detained]
According to rights group Amnesty International, the authorities claim that Aliyev abused his powers as director of Turan by ‘failing to register all grants and to pay appropriate taxes on them’.
He is reportedly accused of failing to register ₼148,000 ($87,000) he received from 2010 to 2014, and underpaying taxes amounting to ₼60,000 ($35,000).
Aliyev denies any wrongdoing.
Human rights groups such as the US-based Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called on the authorities to halt proceedings against Aliyev and release him immediately.
The US State Department did the same in a 27 August statement, claiming they were ‘deeply troubled’ by Aliyev’s detention.
‘These actions by the government of Azerbaijan to curtail freedom of press and to further restrict freedom of expression are the latest in a negative trend that includes the government’s May decision to block access to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and other independent media websites’, the statement read.
Reporters Without Borders labeled Aliyev is one of the pioneers of journalism in the country, whose ‘only crime is to have headed the country’s last independent media outlet’.
Turan, was founded in 1990 and is published online in English, Russian, and Azerbaijani.