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RFE/RL Correspondent Tricked into Jail in Azerbaijan

(Prague, Czech Republic–December 6, 2007) A correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Ilgar Nasibov, was tricked into appearing in court today where he was arrested and taken away to an unknown location in Nakhchivan, the capital of the western Azerbaijan exclave of Nakhchivan. The same judge, two days earlier had exonerated Nasibov of wrongdoing and dismissed slander charges against him filed by local police. Nasibov, age 42 and the father of three children, had been asked to appear before the court today to sign dismissal papers. Instead, without the presence of legal counsel, the judge reinstated the charges and sentenced Nasibov to 90 days in prison.

RFE/RL president Jeff Gedmin called for Nasibov’s immediate release, saying “this is a complete mockery of due process which violates Azerbaijan’s own lawful, judicial procedure.”

Gedmin noted that local police authorities in Nakhchivan have been harassing Nasibov and his wife, Malahat for more than a year with spurious charges. Malahat Nasibova also works as a correspondent for RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service. With her husband, they are the only two independent journalists actively reporting from the region. The Nasibovs file frequent reports on human rights violations and abuse of power by local authorities in Nakhchivan, which has a population of 250,000.

Malahat Nasibova told RFE/RL that police today burst into her apartment without a warrant, searched it and confiscated her computer and archives.

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.