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Azerbaijan rejects appeal of journalist jailed for treason

Published: Updated:

Azerbaijan on Monday threw out a journalist’s appeal after he was jailed on charges of high treason, which he and rights groups have denied as politically motivated.

Polad Aslanov – editor of news websites xeberman.com and press.az, known for harsh criticism of the tightly-controlled nation’s government – was sentenced in November to 16 years behind bars on charges of spying for Iran.

An appeals court in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku “rejected (Aslanov’s) appeal in an unjust ruling, fulfilling the government’s political orders,” his wife Gulmira Aslanova told AFP.

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Aslanov, who has been on a hunger strike since late January in protest of his sentencing, now weighs 44 kilos, is complaining of kidney and stomach pains and is not receiving medical care, Aslanova said.

She added that her husband “will continue his hunger strike and will appeal the verdict in the Supreme Court.”

Aslanov was arrested in June 2019 along with his wife and daughter at a land border crossing with Iran as the family attempted to enter the neighboring country to attend a friend’s wedding, Aslanova said.

She and their daughter were later released, but Aslanov was placed in pre-trial detention. He was accused of selling state secrets to Iran, a charge he said was retaliation for his reporting on official graft.

Prior to his arrest, Aslanov was investigating alleged corruption among Azerbaijan’s state security services.

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International media advocacy groups Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have denounced Aslanov’s prosecution as politically motivated.

“By jailing a critical journalist on trumped-up charges, Azerbaijan is only cementing its reputation as one of Eurasia’s leading jailers of journalists,” the CPJ said in a statement.

“We condemn this inhuman treatment that is putting a journalist’s life in danger and we call on the Azerbaijani authorities to provide him with medical care and to ensure that he gets a fair hearing,” RSF said.

Azerbaijan, an oil-rich ex-Soviet republic in the Caucasus, has long faced strong international criticism for persecuting political opponents and suffocating independent media.