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RFE/RL Azerbaijan Correspondent Released, But Faces Troubling New Charges

(Washington, DC — December 10, 2007) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty remains deeply concerned about the fate of RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service correspondent Ilgar Nasibov, who had new libel allegations leveled against him during a court hearing today, even as the original charges were dismissed and he was released from prison. Nasibov will appeal these latest allegations, which resulted in a one-year suspended sentence.

RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin said, “As relieved as we are that the original charges against Mr. Nasibov were dismissed and he is out of jail, it would not be accurate at this point to consider him free or exonerated.”

During the hearing today in Nakhchivan city, Nasibov was told that authorities had found materials on a computer confiscated from his apartment at the time of his December 6 imprisonment. These materials allegedly include incriminating accusations about two local professors, a businessman and the brother of the local police chief. Prosecutors are attempting to link the apparent find to an article published in the local newspaper in May 2006 alleging that unnamed university professors were colluding with Kurdish PKK rebels.

On December 6, Nasibov was summarily sentenced to 90 days in jail. Local police had filed libel charges against him in November, 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 that week; however, when Nasibov went to the court to sign dismissal papers the judge reinstated the charges, denied him counsel and sentenced him to prison.

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.