- Title: Azeri journalist abducted in Georgia, put in custody in Azerbaijan
- Date: 31st May 2017
- Summary: TBILISI, GEORGIA (MAY 31, 2017) (REUTERS) PROTEST IN FRONT OF GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT BUILDING PROTESTERS HOLDING PHOTOS OF AFGAN MUKHTARLI, SIGN ON POSTER READING (Azeri): 'EFQAN MUXTARLI (AFGAN MUKHTARLI)' PROTESTER HOLDING PICTURE OF MUKHTARLI WITH POLICE VARIOUS OF PROTESTERS HOLDING POSTERS WITH SIGN READING (English): 'FREE AFGAN' (SOUNDBITE) (English) WIFE OF AZERI JOURNALIST AFGAN MUKHTARLI, LEYLA MUSTAFAYEVA, SAYING: "He was working on articles about top state officials and (Azeri President Ilham) Aliyev's family members' business in Georgia. And in 2015 first about five articles, a series of articles about Aliyev's family business was released. And they were very angry with it and recently he was very critical in his facebook posts. And I think he was arrested because of his professional activity." PROTESTER SHOWING CARTOON (SOUNDBITE) (English) WIFE OF AZERI JOURNALIST AFGAN MUKHTARLI, LEYLA MUSTAFAYEVA, SAYING: "But I do not know how he could try and cross the border without passport. His passport was at home." MUSTAFAYEVA SHOWING MUKHTARLI'S PASSPORT MUSTAFAYEVA SPEAKING TO MEDIA PROTESTERS HOLDING POSTERS READING (English): 'TBILISI'S NEW WI-FI: TBILISI ARREST YOU' AND 'STOP KIDNAPPING' (SOUNDBITE) (English) HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH SOUTH CAUCASUS DIRECTOR, GIORGI GOGIA, SAYING: "He was an outspoken journalist who exposed government corruption in Azerbaijan and who sought safety from political prosecution in Georgia in 2015. His return raises serious questions about the actions of the Georgian government - either way Georgia has an obligation to investigate whether they willingly or knowingly or unwillingly or knowingly cooperated with Azerbaijan's special services to kidnap the journalist in Georgia and legally deport him to Azerbaijan." SIGNS ON POSTERS READING (English): 'MONEY CAN'T BUY ME FREEDOM' AND 'WHAT ABOUT THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON EXTRADITION?' PROTESTER COVERING FACE (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST, VIDADI ISKENDERLI, SAYING: "Aliyev destroys and everyone and everybody who acts against his will. And Afgan just as Khadija (Ismayilova - investigative journalist for Radio Free Europe) acted against him and investigated his mafia investments in Georgia. Afgan's life is in danger as well as the life of his family." PROTESTERS / GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT
- Embargoed: 14th June 2017 11:06
- Keywords: Georgia Azeri journalist Afgan Mukhtarli journalist extradition Tbilisi protest
- Location: TBILISI, GEORGIA AND UNKNOWN LOCATION
- City: TBILISI, GEORGIA AND UNKNOWN LOCATION
- Country: Georgia
- Topics: Crime/Law/Justice
- Reuters ID: LVA0016J62O1L
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Georgian journalists and human rights activists gathered on Wednesday (May 31) in front of the government headquarters in Tbilisi to protest against abduction of their Azeri colleague Afgan Mukhtarli.
An independent Azeri journalist has been abducted in Georgia and forcibly taken to neighbouring Azerbaijan where he was detained in custody, his lawyer said, in a case condemned by rights activists.
Afgan Mukhtarli, an investigative journalist and a human rights activist, who had been living in ex-Soviet Georgia since 2015, went missing on Tuesday evening.
Hours later his lawyer Elchin Sadigov told reporters that Mukhtarli had been abducted in the Georgian capital Tbilisi by a group of unknown men, beaten up and taken to the Azeri-Georgian border, where he was detained by Azeri police.
Sadigov said the journalist was charged with illegal border crossing and smuggling.
"Afgan Mukhtarli said that, as they crossed the border, 10,000 euros were put in his pockets," Sadigov said.
The protesters in Georgia demanded freedom for Mukhtarli and investigation of the local secret services' involvement in the case.
"His return raises serious questions about the actions of the Georgian government - either way Georgia has an obligation to investigate whether they willingly or knowingly or unwillingly or knowingly cooperated with Azerbaijan's special services to kidnap the journalist," said Giorgi Gogia, the director of the Human Rights Watch in the South Caucasus.
Georgia's Interior Ministry said it had launched an investigation into the illegal abduction of the Azeri journalist.
"Communication with the Azeri side is under way," the ministry said in a statement.
Rights groups accuse Azeri authorities of muzzling dissent and jailing opponents. Baku denies the charges, saying its population enjoys freedom of speech and access to opposition media.
Several rights activists and journalists have been imprisoned in Azerbaijan in recent years on charges including illegal business activity, tax evasion and hooliganism. Their lawyers have dismissed their trials as politically motivated.
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