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Azerbaijani police raid AbzasMedia offices and detain director 

20 November 2023
Ulvi Hasanli being detained. Photo: Gulzar Mammadli

Azerbaijani police have raided the offices of independent news site and OC Media partner AbzasMedia, and detained its director.

Ulvi Hasanli was reportedly detained on Monday on his way to the airport in Baku. 

Police also claimed to have found €40,000 ($44,000) in cash during their search of AbzasMedia’ offices. However, the outlet has accused the authorities of planting the money in order to falsify charges against Hasanli, a tactic they have previously been accused of using.

AbzasMedia said that Hasanli was brought to the office as it was searched. He told his colleagues that he was punched in the face as he was being detained and was subjected to ‘inhumane behaviour and torture’.

Sevinj Vagifgizi, an editor at AbzasMedia, said on Monday that Hasanli had been due to take a flight in the early hours of Monday morning. ‘[He] left his house with a suitcase. However, according to others on the plane, he did not make his flight’, she said. 

Hasanli’s lawyer, Zibeyda Sadigova, said Hasanli was being held in a police station in Baku. ‘I was not informed about the reason for his detention’, she said.

Streaming live from in front of their offices in Baku on Monday, AbzasMedia journalists filmed as police searched the building and prevented them from accessing it.

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The footage showed police officers pushing away journalists as they attempted to film. 

At one point, AbzasMedia journalist Mina Alyarli opens her coat to reveal a press vest and asks the police to allow her to do her work. ‘I’m wearing a press vest, why are you pressuring me? Why are you preventing me from doing my work? I am a journalist’, says Alyarli.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has yet to comment on or confirm Hasanli’s detention.

AbzasMedia has blamed the raid and Hasanli’s arrest on his investigative work on corruption in Azerbaijan.

AbzasMedia is known for its investigative reports, including on the Aliyev family’s business dealings, as well as alleged corruption in the reconstruction efforts undertaken in Nagorno-Karabakh since 2020.

Fikrat Huseynli, a journalist living in exile in Europe, called Hasanli a victim of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy.

‘The Azerbaijani government is like a drunken father […] when they clash with Iran, they arrest religious people; when they clash with the West, its journalists, and supporters of democracy,’ said Huseynli. ‘Now they are friends with Iran and enemies with the West’.