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Police Detain Wife of Imprisoned RFE/RL Correspondent in Azerbaijan

(Prague, Czech Republic—December 7, 2007) Azerbaijani police today detained Malahat Nasibova, wife of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty correspondent Ilgar Nasibov who was summarily arrested, sentenced without counsel and taken to prison yesterday in Nakhchivan, capital of the western Azerbaijan exclave of Nakhchivan.

Malahat Nasibova, also an RFE/RL correspondent and human rights activist, went to a detention center trying to locate her husband. Police refused to disclose his whereabouts or provide Nasibova a copy of the indictment against him. She was detained today with a fellow journalist, taken for questioning to the Interior Ministry, but released a short time later. Earlier, police forcefully entered the Nasibov’s apartment, searched it without a warrant and confiscated a computer, files and recording equipment.

RFE/RL president Jeff Gedmin said today that “the intensifying police campaign against journalists in Azerbaijan is an alarming trend” and that “RFE/RL is concerned about the safety of Malahat and Ilgar Nasibov and all independent voices in Azerbaijan.” Ilgar Nasibov is the tenth journalist in Azerbaijan to be put in prison in the past year.

Local police filed slander charges against him after he complained about police brutality in an e-mail to the website of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. A local court dismissed the charges earlier this week; however, when Nasibov went to the court to sign the dismissal papers the judge reinstated the charges, denied him counsel and sentenced him to 90 days in prison.

Malahat Nasibova has herself been the target of ongoing harassment by officials in Nakhchivan. In June 2004, she was accused of libel by the head of a local drug abuse rehabilitation center; the case made it to the Azerbaijani Supreme Court before the doctor withdrew his accusation and all charges were dropped. She has also been threatened or offered bribes to cease her critical reporting on local officials in Nakhchivan, which she has disregarded.

RFE/RL broadcasts 10 hours daily to Azerbaijan, producing most programming in its bureau in Baku. Azerbaijani Service programming is also available via the Internet, at the service’s website; English-language news about events in Azerbaijan can be found on the RFE/RL website.