The present document contains the facts and evaluation on the case of Afgan Mukhtarli. Afgan Mukhtarli, an Azerbaijani journalist and activist who found shelter in Georgia as the result of persecution in Azerbaijan, was allegedly abducted in Georgia on May 29, 2017, and forcibly taken to Azerbaijan where he was detained in custody. On January 12, 2018, Belakani District Court, Azerbaijan, sentenced Afgan Mukhtarli to a prison term of six years. He is charged with resisting the police, illegally crossing the Georgia-Azerbaijan border and smuggling 10,000 Euro across the border. On April 24, 2018 the Sheki Appeals Court, Azerbaijan, upheld the decision of the First Instance Court and left Afgan Mukhtarli in prison. According to the defense, the charges against Afgan Mukhtarli were fabricated; besides, court trials were held with violation of fair trial principles, equality of arms and adversarial court proceedings.
The new wave of persecution of Azerbaijani journalists and activists in 2017 was extensive and involved the arrests, detentions and even abduction of the journalist in Georgia. After the „renewed“ crackdown in Azerbaijan, „Courts sentenced at least 25 journalists and political and youth activists to long prison terms in politically motivated, unfair trials. Dozens more were detained or are under criminal investigation, face harassment and travel bans, or have fled“. On March 7, 2017, at the UN Human Rights Council, „Azerbaijani human rights defenders gave accounts of the worrying situation in the country and the need of international community to respond.“
The document at hand presents facts about the disappearance and alleged abduction of Afgan in Tbilisi, capital of Georgia and analyzes criminal investigation launched by Georgian investigation authorities over this fact, trial hearings of Afgan in Azerbaijan and litigation before the European Court of Human Rights. The main findings of the report refer to ineffectiveness of pending criminal investigation in Georgia, particularly, problems of institutional independence of the criminal investigation; failure to gather important evidence on the case; legal qualification
and status of Mr. Mukhtarli in the criminal case, as well as alleged unlawful surveillance and chasing.
To date, criminal investigation in Georgia over the fact of alleged abduction of the Azerbaijani journalist is pending. Georgian Parliament rejected a request from Georgian civil society organization to create temporary investigation commission into the alleged fact of abduction of Mr. Mukhtarli.
The below document presents the facts and circumstances, which were identified and observed by HRHT and its member organization, Article 42 of the constitution, during the work on Afgan Mukhtarli’s case.