Azerbaijani investigative reporter Afgan Mukhtarli was taken by Azerbaijani security forces in Tbilisi, Georgia, and taken to Azerbaijan on May 30th, where he remains detained. Mukhtarli resides in Georgia. The details of the story are yet to be confirmed.
Mukhtarli’s lawyer, Elchin Sadikov, says it was a kidnapping and has accused the Georgian government of violating international law by allowing Azerbaijani special forces to detain Mukhtarli while on Georgian territory. Sadikov says that if a person faces imprisonment in his or her home country while he or she is residing in another country, the government does not have the right to transfer that person back to their home country.
In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Sadikov explained that Mukhtarli was arrested on Monday evening near his home in Tbilisi and forcefully taken into a car. While the people who kidnapped Mukhtarli did not present themselves, Mukhtarli says they were Georgian Special Forces. Sadikov says his client was bagged and driven for two hours in an uncertain direction. The car was changed twice; Mukhtarli says the people in the third car were speaking Azeri, his lawyer reports.
When the kidnappers removed the bag from Mukhtarli’s head, he said, they were at the border checkpoint with Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani authorities accused him of illegally crossing the border and of smuggling; Mukhtarli says they made him carry 10 thousand euros. His lawyer says a court in Azerbaijan will discuss the incident on Wednesday, May 31st.
In an interview with Liberali Magazine, Sadikov claims that Afgan Mukhtarli did not have a passport or identification documents with him.
Tabula contacted the Georgian State Security Service to inquire whether the Georgian authorities cooperated with Azerbaijan's special forces. No information has yet been provided.
Mukhtarli was last seen on May 29th in Tbilisi. Upon the request of his wife and family, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs opened a case under Article 143 of the Criminal Code of Georgia that entails unlawful imprisonment.
"Azerbaijani activist and journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was last seen in Tbilisi in the evening of May 29,” the NGO Human Rights House in Tbilisi said in a statement. “Since he disappeared, his mobile phone is off. According to his wife… Mukhtarli was likely under surveillance by unknown men.”
Mukhtarli is an investigative journalist and activist critical of the Azerbaijani government, says Human Rights House. He resides in Tbilisi since January 2015 with his wife and works as a freelance journalist.
The Georgian government recently came under fire in a similar case, regarding the Turkish head of Demireli College in Georgia, Mustafa Emre Chabuks. Chabuks was accused of being a member of a terrorist organisation in Turkey; he was arrested by Georgian authorities and is currently in pre-trial detention in Tbilisi. Turkish authorities are demanding his extradition to Turkey. Chabuk’s lawyer, Soso Baratashvili, is requesting his client is given refugee status, in order to avoid the process of extradition.
Tamta Mikeladze of the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) says extraditing Chabuk to Turkey would be inadmissible: It violates international obligations taken by the Georgian government, as Chabuk could be exposed to torture and inhumane treatment if he is brought to Turkey.