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Charges Against Azerbaijani Journalist “Totally Absurd”: Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders has joined the Committee to Protect Journalists to condemn the arrest of well-known journalist and political analyst Rauf Mirkadyrov, who was arrested on charges of treason and espionage for Armenia.

“By illegally expelling Mirkadyrov, the Turkish authorities have rendered themselves complicit in Azerbaijan’s persecution of this journalist. The grave charges brought against Mirkadyrov are totally absurd and fool no one,” said Johann Bihr, head of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

The Turkish authorities, Reporters Without Borders reports, stripped Mirkadyrov of his press accreditation on April 9 and, without any explanation, gave him two weeks to leave the country. Nonetheless, he was arrested in Ankara nine days later, on April 18, and was put on a flight to Baku the following day, without being able to challenge his deportation or even contact a lawyer.

The statement notes that "for years" Mirkadyrov has covered the Nagorno-Karabakh issue and participated in various projects aimed at fostering dialogue among the parties to the conflict. 

"The officials conducting the investigation into Mirkadyrov on spying charges have named two Armenians as his alleged 'contact officers.' One of them is Laura Baghdasaryan, the head of the NGO Region [Research Center], with whom several Azerbaijani NGOs have cooperated in cross-border projects.

"Harassment of news providers has been increasing steadily in Azerbaijan, which is ranked 160th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Outspoken journalists and bloggers are being arrested, while the few remaining independent media are close to asphyxiation," concludes the statement.