Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili called on President Giorgi Margvelashvili on June 3rd to grant Georgian citizenship to the wife and child of kidnapped Azerbaijani Afgan Mukhtarli, in an official statement.
Mukhtarli was living in self-imposed exile in Georgia with his wife since 2015; the journalist was kidnapped near his home in Tbilisi on May 30th by Azerbaijani security forces and illegally crossed to Azerbaijan, where he is now in pre-trial detention.
“Taking into account the current situation, I want to ask the President of Georgia to grant Georgian citizenship to Mukhtarli’s wife and child, as an exception, in the shortest period as possible,” reads the statement from Prime Minister Kvirikashvili.
“The investigation has started, and it is in our country’s interests to make this process as transparent as possible. That is why law enforcement authorities are actively communicating with international organizations, representatives of the diplomatic corps, and they have expressed full readiness for support.”
Mukhtarli’s wife, Leyla Mustafaeva, also a journalist, spoke on June 3rd that she refuses to accept the citizenship offer from Georgia.
Mustafaeva says she was refused the right to live in Georgia one year ago because her occupation involved “dangerous work.”
“I will not accept Georgian citizenship, as that would mean that I would have to give up my [Azerbaijani] citizenship, which I do not want to do. One year ago I asked for the right to live in Georgia and I was refused because I was told that I was occupied in dangerous work. Has anything changed now? I’m not dangerous anymore?” Mustafaeva said.
While in Georgia, Leyla Mustafaeva and Afgan Mukhtarli wrote about corruption and business in the Azerbaijani government, as well as about political persecution in Azerbaijan.
Civil society groups are loudly criticizing the Georgian government for Mukhtarli’s kidnapping, believing that the government was complicit in the abduction as Mukhtarli was forcefully taken across the border without a passport. Mukhtarli’s lawyer, Elchin Sadikov, accused the Georgian government of violating international law by allowing Azerbaijani special forces to detain Mukhtarli while he was on Georgian territory. High-ranking Georgian officials, including the prime minister, interior minister, and justice minister, have denied allegations that the Georgian authorities had any involvement in or knowledge of the abduction.
Speaking from detention in Baku, Mukhtarli says Azerbaijani security forces forced him across the border and planted 10,000 Euros on him; the Azerbaijani government argues Mukhtarli was detained for illegally crossing the border and smuggling money.