Members of Georgia’s parliamentary majority will meet with the interior minister to discuss Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, who was abducted from Tbilisi to Baku on 29 May. Both countries have remained largely silent about the details of the abduction, and it is still unclear exactly how the self-exiled journalist ended up in Azerbaijan.
Earlier on 16 June, the head of parliament’s Euro-integration Committee Tamar Khulordava said that ‘nothing can be excluded during the investigation process, including the possible participation of Georgia’s Special Services’.
Mukhtarli’s lawyers and wife claim that the journalist was abducted from Tbilisi by a group of unknown people wearing Georgian police uniforms. The claim has not been confirmed and footage from the areas where Mukhtarli said he walked has not been released.
Georgian participation in the abduction has been denied by Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani, and others. After Azerbaijani MP Elman Nasirov said in an interview with the Azerbaijani office of RFE/RL that the Mukhtarli’s arrest was a ‘successful operation’ between Georgian and Azerbaijani intelligence agencies, Georgia rejected the claim.
More than 50 journalists have signed a petition demanding a meeting with Kvirikashvili to discuss the circumstances of Mukhtarli’s disappearance.
They released a statement saying that they are concerned about the reluctance of the Georgian authorities to disclose any details, especially after the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) claimed to have viewed doctored footage from the route Mukhtarli says he took the night he was abducted. According to the OCCRP and Rustavi 2 TV, the footage, which appears to show that Mukhtarli was lying about his whereabouts that night, has been altered.
The Chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party Mamuka Mdinaradze announced the meeting with the Interior Minister on 19 June, adding that an ineffective investigation of the case would ‘definitely badly reflect on the international image of the country’. He declined to specify the date that the meeting would take place.
Mukhtarli’s abduction has attracted international attention and condemnation. The European Parliament passed a resolution on on 15 June, calling for his immediate release and urging Georgia to conduct a ‘prompt, thorough, transparent and effective investigation’ 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’.
According to Meydan TV, the European Court of Human Rights has already contacted the Azerbaijani government requesting information, and the case has been prioritised by the court due to the seriousness of the allegations.