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Azerbaijani economist ‘kidnapped’ and detained in AbzasMedia case

5 June 2024
Economist Farid Mehralizade. Image via social media.

Azerbaijani economist Farid Mehralizade was detained as part of the government’s crackdown on AbzasMedia, despite not having any ties to the independent news outlet.

Mehralizade was expected to testify in the AbzasMedia case on Saturday, but was reportedly abducted and detained two days earlier, on 30 May.

His wife, Nargiz Mukhtarova, said that her husband disappeared in the early morning of 30 May, and was escorted to their home by the police around noon that day.

‘The police brought him home at noon. They raided our house and took only our mobile phones, even the old ones that were unusable. When the police arrested him they put a bag over his head’, she told OC Media.

During the raid, Mehralizade told his wife that he was abducted from the 28 May Metro Station in Baku.

OC Media has reached out to the Interior Ministry for comment on Mehralizade’s detention.

Mehralizade is an economic analyst often contacted by pro-government media outlets for comments. He also runs Çəpəki, a Telegram channel covering Azerbaijan’s economic policies and statistics.


An unexpected arrest

Mukhtarova told OC Media that they did not foresee Mehralizade’s arrest, as he was never asked to testify against AbzasMedia by the police.

‘I tried to find the logic behind it, but I couldn’t find it. Everything is so unclear to me’, she said.

Following his arrest, AbzasMedia, which now operates out of exile, issued a statement stressing that they had never worked with Mehralizade. They said that he had given comment to the independent media outlet as ‘one of hundreds of experts’ they have contacted.

They stated that ‘dozens of people who have no cooperation or connection with Abzas Media have been brought in for questioning as witnesses in this case.’

Azerbaijan began its crackdown on media in November, targeting independent journalists and their organisations and political activists.

[Read more: ‘My son is not a smuggler’: how Azerbaijan detains critics]

Journalists and activists in Azerbaijan have since decided to largely operate underground in fear of government persecution.

The Baku Community Space, a platform for youth activism, was one of the latest organisations to shut down in light of the ongoing crackdown.

‘We couldn’t work in such a tough situation, and to save our members we decided to close the platform’, a member of the organisation told OC Media.

Read in Georgian on On.ge.
Read in Russian on SOVA.News.
Read in Armenian on CivilNet.
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