Azeri Leader Orders Swift Probe After Journalist Beaten to Death

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev ordered a “swift and comprehensive” investigation into the death of a journalist who was beaten shortly after he criticized a soccer player in a Facebook post.

Aliyev is “seriously concerned” about the attack on Rasim Aliyev and views it as a “threat to independent media” in Azerbaijan, his political aide Ali Hasanov told state news agency Azartac. The president said he would take personal control of the investigation, according to Azartac.

Rasim Aliyev, 31, was beaten by several unidentified men in the capital, Baku, on Saturday and died of his injuries in the hospital the following day, police said. Aliyev, who is not related to the president, worked for a number of online publications including the Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety, which receives funding from international organizations.

The journalist told Meydan TV, a Berlin-based online broadcaster, hours before his death that he was attacked by relatives of Cavid Huseynov, a striker at the Azeri soccer club Gabala FK. Huseynov waved a Turkish flag after an Aug. 6 match with Cypriot team Apollon Limassol and made a hand gesture at a Greek Cypriot journalist that Aliyev described as “immoral” on his Facebook page.

The club said it’s suspended Huseynov while the investigation goes on. The player denied involvement in the attack in a Facebook statement.

Azerbaijan, the largest oil producer in the former Soviet Union after Russia and Kazakhstan, is among the 10 most censored countries in the world, with at least eight journalists in prison on politically motivated charges, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. The Azeri government rejects the accusations.

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