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Afgan Mukhtarli’s health ‘worsened’, denied access to hospital

26 June 2017
Azerbaijani Journalist Afgan Mukhtarli greets supporters as he is taken to the court in Baku, Azerbaijan, May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov

The health condition of Afgan Mukhtarli, the Azerbaijani journalist abducted from Tbilisi on 29 May and currently kept in a jail in Baku, has been getting worse and he has not been transferred to a hospital, Mukhtarli’s wife Leyla Mustafayeva told Tbilisi-based news outlet On.ge on 26 June.

‘He cannot stay in jail. He did not even get the medicine prescribed by the doctor after the medical examination (…) ‘I think he will not be taken to the hospital. They [the authorities] just want to harm him as much as possible’, Mustafayeva said.

Mukhtarli’s lawyers and his wife claim that the journalist was abducted from Tbilisi by a group of unknown people wearing Georgian police uniforms. The claim has not yet been confirmed by the Georgian authorities, who have refused to release the footage from security cameras along the route Mukhtarli took before the abduction.

The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Rustavi 2 put forward a claim that the footage they obtained from an unnamed private company, showing that Mukhtarli was lying about his whereabouts on the night of his abduction, was altered. In response to the OCCRP’s claim that Georgian security officials visited the business before and shortly after the journalists were there, senior member of the Georgian Parliament Giorgi Volski said the footage was obtained from ‘an object, which the Interior Ministry had not communicated with’.

Georgia’s Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili said the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia should investigate the story instead of the Interior Ministry, as the allegations from the journalist also allude to the involvement of the latter. According to Georgia’s laws, the Interior Ministry must not investigate a case if its involvement is alleged.

Government officials said on 19 June they would discuss Mukhtarli’s case with the Interior Ministry, but the meeting has not taken place yet. They declined to specify the date when the meeting would take place.

After tens of journalists rallied in solidarity with Mukhtarli urging Georgian authorities to disclose the details of the case, Georgian journalist Irakli Kordzaia held a single-person demonstration in front of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on 21 June. The journalist, formerly an employee at Georgia’s Ministry of Corrections, said his demonstration was his ‘personal response to their [Georgian authorities’] shamelessness’.

Georgia has been called to conduct a transparent investigation into Mukhtarli’s case by local media watchdogs and international human rights organisations. The European Parliament called for his immediate release and urged Georgia to conduct a ‘prompt, thorough, transparent, and effective investigation’.

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