[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Thursday ordered [judgment text; press release] Azerbaijan's government to "secure the immediate release" of imprisoned Azeri journalist Eynulla Fatuallyev and pay him over 25,000 euros in compensation. Fatuallyev has been imprisoned since April 2007 and was convicted in Azerbaijan of committing defamation and tax evasion and inciting terror and religious and ethnic hatred. International organizations, including Amnesty International (AI), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Press Institute and Reporters Without Borders [statements], have insisted that the charges against Fatullayev are spurious. The ECHR ruled that Fatullayev's conviction and 8.5 year prison sentence contravene Article 10, Freedom of Speech and Information, and Article 6, Right to a Fair Trial, of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. Azerbaijan's Representative to the European Rights Court Chingiz Asgarov said, however, that the court's directive to release Fatuallyev is outside the purview [Trend interview, in Azeri] of both the European Convention on Human Rights and Azerbaijan's legislation. Azerbaijan is planning to request that the Grand Chamber review the decision [APA interview, in Azeri], according to Azerbaijan Presidential Administration Law Enforcement Department Chief Fuad Alesgarov. At the end of last year, heroin was allegedly found [RFE/RL report] in Fatuallyev's prison cell, and he is currently on trial for possession of drugs - charges that many feel are intended to prolong [CPJ statement] the journalist's detention despite the ECHR decision in his favor.
In 2009, Fatuallyev received, in absentia, one of CPJ's prestigious International Press Freedom Awards [press release; video]. In the same year, he also received AI's Award for Journalism Under Threat [BBC report]. Fatuallyev, who was editor-in-chief of Realny Azerbaijan and Gundalik Azerbaijan newspapers until his imprisonment, formerly worked with well-known Azeri journalist Elmar Huseynov [BBC backgrounder] on the Monitor magazine until Huseynov was murdered [BBC report] in 2005. CPJ reported recently that Fatuallyev's imprisonment could be related to his attempts to solve [report] his colleague's murder. Azerbaijan's incumbent president Ilham Aliyev has been accused by members of the press of heavy-handed repression of the media [JURIST report]. The ECHR's ruling on Fatullayev's case is one of several decisions that the court has issued against Azerbaijan this month. The court also recently found that the country violated [JURIST report] a parliamentary candidate's right to free and fair elections during the 2005 elections.