Mahammad Mirzali, an Azerbaijani blogger and radical critic of the Azerbaijani government living in exile in France, has been stabbed by a group of unknown men in the city of Nantes.
Mirzali survived the attack but remains in hospital.
French media, without naming Mirzali, reported that at around 14:00 near the city centre a group of men exited a car to attack a man before fleeing the scene soon after. They reported that he suffered injuries to his neck, face and arms.
Afgan Mukhtarli, an independent Azerbaijani journalist who has spoken with Mirzali since the attack, told OC Media that Mirzali was warned by police not to leave his house due to a potential attack.
According to Reporters Without borders, his attackers shouted that they were going to cut out Mirzali’s tongue during the attack.
‘French authorities should swiftly investigate the knife attack on exiled Azerbaijani blogger Mahammad Mirzali, find the perpetrators and those who ordered it, and bring them to justice’, said Gulnoza Said, Central Asia coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The French Police did not respond to a request for comment.
The latest attack on Mirzali follows several incidents of harassment against his family, who remain in Azerbaijan.
Speaking with Meydan TV, one of his sisters claimed to have been blackmailed because of her brother’s criticism of the government.
‘I have lived in a civil marriage for some time. Now I have an intimate video with him. This video was sent to my brother, political activists and friends who are currently in exile’, she told Meydan TV.
She said that following this, on 9 March, three athletic men attacked their house, breaking several windows.
‘I have reached the point of suicide. Nobody cares about our problems, we go to the police, the police do not care’, she said.
She said that her sister also attempted to take her own life after the 9 March attack.
The press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs told Meydan TV that the complaints were being investigated.
Mahammad Mirzali is a member of the opposition Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan and is a well-known blogger.
According to him, he has faced persecution from the authorities chiefly for his role in organising a protest against the deaths of soldiers in Goychay.
The ‘Stop Soldier Deaths!’ rallies in Baku in March 2013 were over a string of deaths in the army in non-combat situations and a lack of official investigation into these deaths.
He has claimed that the police harassed him before he emigrated to France, and that his father was summoned and threatened by the police.
In a 2018 interview with RFE/RL, Mirzali’s mother, Zumrud Mirzaliyeva, said her husband was taken from Goychay to the Baku Office for Combating Organised Crime, where officers threatened to publish intimate videos of their daughter on YouTube.
According to Mukhtarli, many political refugees have been intimidated and blackmailed into halting their activities. He named Orkhan Agayev, who was beaten by six people in February before local police intervened.
In December 2020, another political refugee living in Belgium, Vugar Rza, disappeared. His body was found in a river 15 days later.