The Baku Court of Appeals rejected on 23 August an appeal by Afgan Mukhtarli, a journalist abducted from Tbilisi and taken to Azerbaijan. He was appealing a 17 August ruling to prolong his pretrial detention by two months.
The decision means Mukhtarli will remain in custody awaiting trial until at least 30 October.
Caucasian Knot quoted Mukhtarli’s lawyer, Elchin Sadigov, as calling the ruling ‘ungrounded’.
According to Sadigov, the court never asked the prosecution to provide details of the case, as necessary.
‘Without this, the hearing became a formality’, Sadigov said. According to him, Mukhtarli reiterated that the charges against him were fabricated, and urged the court to ascertain how he ended up going from Tbilisi to Baku. ‘But the judges pretended not to hear the statement of the accused’, Sadigov said.
Eighty-seven days ago Mukhtarli was abducted from Tbilisi while walking home at night; the details surrounding his disappearance have yet to be clarified by the authorities in either Georgia or Azerbaijan.
Elman Nasirov, a member of Azerbaijan’s parliament who also sits on parliament’s human rights committee said on 9 June in an interview with the Azerbaijani office of RFE/RL that Mukhtarli’s detention was a ‘successful operation’ between Georgian and Azerbaijani intelligence agencies, a claim Georgia’s State Security Service denies.
After journalists and rights groups protested the alleged involvement of Georgian authorities, Interior Minister Giorgi Mghebrishvili suspended the heads of the border police and counterintelligence to ‘exclude any questions in the case’.
The European Parliament has condemned Mukhtarli’s abduction, labelling it a ‘serious violation of human rights’ and calling on Azerbaijan to release him. They also urged the Georgian authorities to conduct a ‘prompt, thorough, transparent and effective investigation’ into his disappearance.
Mukhtarli’s lawyers and wife claim that he was abducted from Tbilisi by a group wearing Georgian police uniforms and speaking Georgian. The claim has not been confirmed by the Georgian authorities, who have refused to release footage from security cameras along the route Mukhtarli took before the abduction.
Mukhtarli was last seen in Georgia by his friend on the evening of 29 May. After failing to return home, he resurfaced again in Azerbaijan charged with what his lawyer calls ‘bogus charges’.
The journalist is currently in pre-trial detention in Baku, charged with smuggling €10,000 ($11,200), border trespass, and disobeying border guards.
[For details, read on OC Media: Tbilisi-based Azerbaijani journalist abducted to Azerbaijan]