Rights Groups Condemn Jailing of Prominent Azerbaijan Blogger

Twenty four human-rights groups including Reporters Without Borders condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the jailing in Azerbaijan of pro-opposition blogger Mehman Huseynov.

An Azeri court on Friday sentenced Huseynov, a video blogger and journalist who reported on corruption in the government of President Ilham Aliyev, to two years in prison for defaming the police. He was prosecuted after reporting torture while in police detention in December.

Huseynov’s jailing is “another example of Azerbaijan’s best and brightest being targeted for expressing opinions critical of the ruling Aliyev regime,” Rebecca Vincent, U.K. bureau director for Reporters Without Borders, said in an emailed statement that was signed by other advocacy groups including the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Aliyev has ruled the former Soviet Union’s third-largest oil exporter since 2003, when he was appointed by his father, Heydar Aliyev. The 55-year-old leader has faced criticism from rights groups for extending the presidential term to seven years from five in a referendum in September. Opposition critics have also alleged Aliyev is preparing to pass power eventually to his son, after the age limit for presidential candidates was lowered to 35 years in the plebiscite.

Huseynov is one of at least 13 journalists, bloggers and media workers jailed in Azerbaijan, the rights groups said Friday, calling for their immediate release.