Footage of Mukhtarli on night of his abduction ‘doctored’ as EU calls for answers

15 June 2017
Afgan Mukhtarli (Facebook)

The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) claims to have viewed doctored footage from the route journalists Afgan Mukhtarli says he took the night he was abducted from Tbilisi to Azerbaijan. According to them, the footage, which appears to show that Mukhtarli was lying about his whereabouts that night, has been doctored.

OCCRP published an investigation on 14 June claiming that two reporters from OCCRP and one from Rustavi 2 TV watched two hours of security camera footage from a private business on the route.  

The footage reportedly shows a busy pavement on Nikoloz Baratashvili Street, one of the main thoroughfares in downtown Tbilisi, during the early evening.

‘At first, the video shows a street scene that is dark and rainy. At about the time Mukhtarli would be passing by, there is an abrupt break in the footage, and the next shots show a clear early evening with the sun shining. The vehicles and pedestrians visible before and after the break do not match. The clock on the video shows a leap backwards in time of several seconds. A few minutes later, the video appears to revert to the rainy evening’, OCCRP wrote.

Georgian security officials reportedly visited this business before and shortly after the journalists were there.

Georgian police have not yet responded to these claims.

The European Parliament passed a resolution on Mukhtarli’s abduction on 15 June. The resolution ‘strongly condemns the abduction of Afgan Mukhtarli in Tbilisi and his subsequent arbitrary detention in Baku’ and ‘considers this a serious violation of human rights and condemns this grave act of breach of law’.

The resolution also urges the Georgian authorities to ensure a ‘prompt, thorough, transparent and effective investigation into Afgan Mukhtarli’s forced disappearance’ and to bring the perpetrators to justice, while challenging them to ‘clarify beyond any doubt all suspicion regarding the involvement of Georgian state agents in the forced disappearance’.

Finally, it calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against and release Afgan Mukhtarli.

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’. His lawyer Elchin Sadigov told reporters that Mukhtarli had been kidnapped outside his flat on Tbilisi’s Chonkadze Street by four Georgian speaking men.

On 9 June Elman Nasirov, a member of Azerbaijan’s parliament who also sits on parliament’s human rights committee said in an interview with the Azerbaijani office of RFE/RL that the arrest of Afgan Mukhtarli was a ‘successful operation’ between Georgian and Azerbaijani intelligence agencies. He accused Mukhtarli of being a member of an anti-government group in Georgia and said he was ‘traitor to the country’.

The State Security Service of Georgia has rejected the claim.

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