A court in Azerbaijan today sentenced journalist Afgan Mukhtarli to a prison term of six years. He is charged with resisting police, illegally crossing the Georgia-Azerbaijan border, and smuggling 10,000 euro across the border. Mukhtarli denies the charges.
Mukhtarli was living in self-imposed exile in Georgia when he was kidnapped by Azerbaijani security services near his home in Tbilisi in May 2017. He reappeared the next day in a Baku prison with his passport still in Tbilisi.
Mukhtarli is an investigative journalist and activist critical of the Azerbaijani government, says Human Rights House. He was residing in Tbilisi since January 2015 with his wife.
“I have been fighting against injustice throughout my life. During my time in Georgia every single step was controlled by Azerbaijani special forces. It would have been better if the money spent on spying on me was spent for the welfare of the people,” Mukhtarli said in his last speech in court.
Mukhtarli’s lawyers asked the court to reduce the prison sentence as Mukhtarli has two young children. The prosecutor’s office declined the request stating that the official birth certificates of the children were not brought to the court.
There has been criticism of the Georgian government for its suspected cooperation or blind-eye in the Mukhtarli kidnapping.
In December, Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili stated that the Mukhtarli case “was a very serious failure. Such a thing should not have happened.”
Mukhtarli's wife, Leyla Mustafaeva commented on her husband's imprisonment and blamed PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili and Georgian government for taking part in this 'cross-border' crime:
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is currently discussing the Afgan Mukhtarli case and has prioritized it on its agenda.