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Georgian officials say they have asked Azerbaijan for access to Afgan Mukhtarli, the journalist abducted from Tbilisi who ended up in a Baku jail, after the EU Parliament called for answers and more than 200 journalists demanded his release.
‘We have appealed to relevant agencies in Azerbaijan for our investigative bodies to be able to interrogate Afgan Mukhtarli in Azerbaijan’, Tamar Khulordava, the Chairman of Parliament’s European Integration Committee said on 15 June. The move will push forward the investigation significantly, she added.
Georgia’s Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani confirmed this on 15 June, claiming that the resolution, recently adopted by the European Parliament which strongly condemns the journalist’s abduction, ‘matches Georgia’s position’.
‘Nothing can stop the investigation. The main thing is that the two countries [Georgia and Azerbaijan] cooperate, so that the investigation is considered effective’, Tsulukiani added.
The European Parliament passed a resolution on Mukhtarli’s abduction on 15 June, urging the Georgian authorities to ensure a transparent investigation and calling on Azerbaijan to drop all charges against Mukhtarli. The resolution also called on Georgia to confront accusations that they were in any way involved.
More than 200 journalists from 16 countries also called for the immediate release of Mukhtarli, an investigative journalist who has worked for RFE/RL, IWPR and several others, stressing that they are alert to the ‘reluctance of Georgian authorities to investigate the abduction’.
The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) claimed on 14 June that CCTV footage, which appears to show that Mukhtarli was lying about his whereabouts during the night of his abduction, has been doctored.
[Read more on OC-Media: Footage of Mukhtarli on night of his abduction ‘doctored’ as EU calls for answers]
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.