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Azerbaijani journalist Leyla Mustafayeva, whose husband, investigative journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was abducted in Georgia and taken to Azerbaijan, has left the country with her daughter. She plans to request asylum in Germany.
Mustafayeva left Tbilisi on 11 October fearing the threats she is exposed to, the family’s lawyer Archi Chopikashvili says.
On 12 October Chopikashvili told OC Media that Mustafayeva is not planning to return and will apply for asylum in Germany.
‘Due to our dissatisfaction towards the investigation, and considering the threats that exist, there was a high possibility Leyla Mustafayeva (just like her husband) could be kidnapped and imprisoned in Azerbaijan on political grounds’, Chopikashvili wrote on Facebook.
Mustafayeva has claimed she may be a ‘target of Azerbaijani security services’, as she reports to have been spied on. She published photos of men she alleged had been following her on 19 September, claiming this has remained uninvestigated. Georgia’s Prosecutor’s Office say they have launched an investigation.
Azerbaijani investigative journalist Afgan Mukhtarli disappeared near his flat on 29 May in Tbilisi. He turned up in custody in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku a day later. He claims that he was abducted by Azerbaijani security services, with possible Georgian involvement.
[Read more on Mukhtarli’s abduction on OC Media: Tbilisi-based Azerbaijani journalist abducted to Azerbaijan]
A court in Baku has denied Mukhtarli bail. According to his lawyer Zibeyda Sadigova, Mukhtarli suffers from diabetes and heart disease and has been denied proper treatment in jail.
Mukhtarli was last seen in Georgia by his friend and colleague Dashgin Aghalarli, another Azerbaijani living in exile, on the evening of 29 May. According to Aghalarli, the two were having dinner in a café on Orbeliani Square near Tbilisi’s central Rustaveli Avenue, which, according to Mukhtarli’s wife, is 15 minutes away from the place they were staying.
Sadigov says that Mukhtarli was abducted near his house by plain-clothed men who spoke Georgian. The men put the journalist into a car, tied him up, put a bag over his head, and drove him for roughly two hours. According to Sadigov, they changed cars before putting him into a third car, with Azerbaijani-speaking individuals in it. When they removed the bag from his head, he was already on the other side of the Azerbaijan–Georgia border crossing point.
Leyla Mustafayeva told media that his passport remained in Tbilisi.
Azerbaijani authorities are accusing Mukhtarli of crossing the border illegally in possession of €10,000 ($11,200) in illegal money, which Mukhtarli’s lawyer claims was planted on him.
[Georgian authorities under pressure because of the Mukhtarli case, read on OC Media: ‘Unwell’ abducted Azerbaijani journalist Mukhtarli denied bail]