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Azerbaijani opposition leader barred entry to Georgia

Seymur Hazi. Photo: Seymur Hazi/Facebook

The deputy chair of Azerbaijan’s opposition Popular Front party, Seymur Hazi, has been refused entry to Georgia. Georgian authorities have not commented on the case. 

Hazi wrote on Facebook that he had been refused entrance ‘without any reason’ on Thursday.

Hazi told OC Media that he was officially denied entry to the country for not meeting ‘other requirements defined by Georgian legislation’ — a common and vague justification given to people who are refused entry into Georgia.

The opposition politician said that he was detained at the Sarpi border checkpoint while attempting to cross from Turkey to Georgia, and informed by a Georgian border officer that he was banned from entering the country. 

‘I have no explanation for this. I don't know why the Georgian government banned my entry. But if this ban is a political decision, I consider it an order of the Azerbaijani government. I came to Turkey from Georgia and was returning, [but] they didn't let me in, so I returned to Turkey. All my things are still in Georgia,’ said Hazi.

Hazi met with Turkish opposition party leaders while in Turkey. 

Hazi spent five years in prison in Azerbaijan between 2014 and 2019 on charges of ‘hooliganism’. The activist and journalist denied the charges, claiming that he was arrested for articles he wrote criticising the government in the Azadlig newspaper, and for being a presenter on Azerbaijan Hour

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Amnesty International declared Seymur Hazi a prisoner of conscience in 2016. 

Hazi is married to Nigar Hazi, the daughter of political dissident Tofig Yagublu, who is currently on hunger strike in prison.

[Read more on OC Media: Imprisoned opposition leader Tofig Yagublu on fifth day of hunger strike]

Denying entry to journalists and government critics

While Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs did not respond to enquiries from OC Media regarding the case, there have been frequent reports of dissidents from neighbouring countries being denied entry to Georgia in the past year. Several Russian journalists and government critics have been refused entry into the country following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

[Read more on OC Media: Russian journalist denied entry into Georgia twice in one month]

Vasily Krestyaninov, a Russian photojournalist, was refused entry into Georgia twice in less than two weeks, despite having lived in Georgia since the end of 2021. Krestyaninov told OC Media he was turned away upon arrival without being given an official reason by the Georgian border control.

David Frenkel, a reporter for Russian digital outlet Mediazona, was denied entry on 10 March — four days after Russian authorities blocked the outlet for refusing to censor news about the war. 

Another prominent journalist, Mikhail Fishman, an anchor on the independent Russian TV channel Dozhd, told OC Media of a similar experience on 5 March. 

‘I understand that I was not permitted into the country because of who I am and what I do. This is totally clear to me’, Fishman said.