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Azerbaijan: Human rights defender and blogger Mr Mehman Huseynov to face up to five years imprisonment
On 13 June 2012, pro-democracy blogger Mr Mehman Huseynov was released after one-day detention and charged with “hooliganism committed with resistance to representative of the authority”, a charge punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
Mehman Huseynov is a 23-year-old blogger, whose photos and video reports have been circulated in local and international social networks and also used by newspapers. He works for the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) and Turan Information Agency.
On 5 June, at 10pm, a police officer from the Sabail District Police brought an official notice to Mehman Huseynov's home. The notice summoned him to go to the police station on 9 June but did not contain any specific information on why he was asked to do so and on what grounds he was being accused. As Mehman Huseynov was abroad participating in a seminar on photojournalism, he went to the police station on 12 June upon arriving to Baku. He was interrogated first as a witness for two and half hours on the case of the opposition protest that had taken place in Baku on 21 May in relation to the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest; then the police changed his status to “accused” in the case, interrogated him for another two hours, and charged him with “hooliganism” under Article 222.1 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan. On 21 May, Mehman Huseynov was making photographs of the protest when the police reportedly acted in a violent way, breaking his photocamera and his IFSR colleague's video camera while they were trying to film the events.
Mehman Huseynov was detained for about 24 hours, until the court hearing on 13 June, at 11pm. The court did not approve the prosecutor's request to extend the period of detention. Nevertheless the charges were accepted and changed into a more severe clause of “hooliganism committed with resistance to representative of the authority”, under Article 222.2 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan, punishable by up to five years imprisonment. Mehman Huseynov had to sign a statement that he would not leave Baku during the two months of preliminary investigation, which can be prolonged further by the court.
Mehman Huseynov's active participation in the civic campaign “Sing for Democracy”, launched on the occasion of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, has greatly contributed to increase international attention to human rights issues in Azerbaijan. Mehman Huseynov's elder brother, Mr Emin Huseynov, director of the IRFS and head of the “Sing for Democracy” campaign, claims that it is the authorities' reaction to civil society activism that brought negative publicity for Azerbaijan during the Eurovision contest.
Front Line Defenders believes that the charge faced by Mehman Huseynov is directly linked to his peaceful and legitimate actions in defence of human rights, in particular his professional coverage of pro-democracy protests and campaigns and his activities to promote the right to freedom of expression.