Georgia denies role in journalist’s abduction
TBILISI – Agence France-PresseGeorgia on June 1 denied it was involved in the alleged abduction and handover of a pro-opposition Azerbaijani journalist to his country’s authoritarian government.
Journalist Afghan Mukhtarli was jailed May 31 for a preliminary three months by an Azerbaijani court on charges of illegally crossing the border and smuggling money after he resurfaced in his homeland following a purported kidnapping.
Mukhtarli, 43, had lived in self-imposed exile in neighboring Georgia since 2015 after investigating Azerbaijan’s strongman leader Ilham Aliyev for corruption. He claims that he was abducted on May 30 in the Georgian capital by men who spoke Georgian, beaten and later handed to Azerbaijani security forces.
Rights group Amnesty International said it appeared authorities in pro-Western Georgia “were complicit in the harrowing cross-border abduction.”
But interior minister Giorgi Mgebrishvili said that “Georgia’s law enforcement agencies have nothing to do with this version of the case, nor can they have any connection with it.”
“Let’s not draw hasty conclusions, the investigation will reveal the truth,” he said.
Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has called Mukhtarli’s “disappearance from the Georgian territory” a “serious challenge to the Georgian state and its sovereignty.”
Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks said “Azerbaijan’s authorities must release Mr Mukhtarli without delay and ensure that he fully enjoys his human rights.”