Azerbaijan arrests journalist on spying charge after deportation from Turkey
BAKU - ISTANBUL
Azerbaijani journalist and commentator Rauf Mirkadyrov. Photo source: rferl.orgA prominent Azeri journalist has been arrested after being deported from Turkey on accusations of meeting Armenian agents in three countries.
Rauf Mirkadyrov was detained in Baku and is now being investigated for espionage, said his lawyer, Fuad Agayev.
“Today I received a call from an investigator in the serious crimes department of the Prosecutor-General’s office, Ibrahim Lemberanski,” he said.
“He said that Mirkadyrov is accused of state treason. I asked what specific form of state treason and the investigator answered: ‘espionage.’”
Semi-official Azerbaijan Press Agency (APA) reported on April 21 that Mirkadyrov was accused of conspiring “with Armenian special forces since April 2008 against the sovereignty, state security, territorial integrity and defense capability of Azerbaijan, repeatedly met with Armenian special forces in Armenia, Georgia and Turkey and gave them information about the socio-political and military situation in the country, as well as information that was a state secret, along with photographs and diagrams in order to use them for hostile activities against Azerbaijan.”
Azerbaijan, a tightly controlled oil-rich country, has been criticized by rights organizations for attacks on free speech under its strongman president, İlham Aliyev. Human rights groups have expressed concerns about recent assaults on journalists and punitive prosecutions by the state.
Mirkadyrov is the politics correspondent of the independent Russian-language newspaper Zerkalo, or Mirror, which is published in Azerbaijan.
He was based in Ankara for the last few years while continuing to write for the paper. He published articles that were critical of both the Turkish and Azeri leadership.
According to Mirkadyrov’s wife, Adelya Babakhanova, Turkish police approached them on a bus in Ankara on April 18, claiming that Mirkadyrov’s residence and work permits had expired, although they had been extended until the end of the year. Mirkadyrov was taken to a police station. Babakhanova was informed later the same day that her husband would be deported; the reasons were not specified, according to a RFE/RL report.
Azeri journalist Şeyda Kemaloğlu told Turkish daily Cumhuriyet that Mirkadyrov was going to Georgia not to flee Turkey, but to return to the country by getting a tourist visa after his work permit was cancelled.
Zerkalo newspaper said in a statement posted on its website that Turkey had canceled Mirkadyrov’s accreditation as a journalist and deported him after ordering him to leave the country. Mirkadyrov is “one of the country’s best political analysts,” it said, adding that his family remained in Turkey.
It said the reason for Mirkadyrov’s deportation was unclear and the newspaper had not received a response from the Turkish Embassy in Azerbaijan.
The journalist is being held in the detention center of the national security ministry and cannot receive a lawyer’s visit until April 22, Agayev added.