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Imprisoned Azerbaijani journalist on hunger strike injures self

11 January 2022
A protester holds up an image of Polad Aslanov. Photo via Voice of America.

Imprisoned Azerbaijani journalist, Polad Aslanov has been on hunger strike for several days. According to his wife, Gulmira Aslanova, after being denied a weekly phone call he cut his arms in protest — the phone call was then granted.

She also told reporters that prison authorities had denied Aslanov water to force him to end his hunger strike. 

Aslanov, who ran the independent news websites Xeberman and Press-az, has not had an appeal of his sentence considered for over a year.  He began his hunger strike on 6 January. 

Aslanova told Voice of America that her husband is protesting both what he considers to be his ‘illegal’ detention and the delay in the consideration of his appeal. 

He was convicted of treason in 2019 and sentenced to 16 years in prison, for allegedly spying for Iran. He has denied the accusations. 

At the time of his arrest, Aslanov was reportedly working on a story that may have implicated members of the State Security Service in an extortion scheme.

‘There is still no information about Polad Aslanov's health. But he will continue his hunger strike until the end’, Aslanova said. He had previously gone on a 30-day hunger strike in June.

International human rights organizations such as Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have condemned Aslanov’s treatment by the Azerbaijani government.

‘Azerbaijani authorities should immediately release journalist Polad Aslanov and not contest his appeal’, Gulnoza Said, the Europe and Central Asia program coordinator for the CPJ is quoted as saying in a 2020 CPJ statement. ‘By jailing a critical journalist on trumped-up charges, Azerbaijan is only cementing its reputation as one of Eurasia’s leading jailers of journalists.’

RSF meanwhile, has dismissed the charges against Aslanov as ‘trumped up’.

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