Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Saturday criticized the Azerbaijani Supreme Court [press release] for failing to order the release of imprisoned journalist Enyulla Fatullayev in violation of a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website]. On Thursday, the Supreme Court vacated Fatullayev's convictions [JURIST report] for defamation and the incitement of terror and ethnic hatred. The court also ruled that his sentence for tax evasion had been served. The ruling came one month after the ECHR affirmed its prior decision [JURIST report] ordering Fatullayev's release because his convictions and eight-and-a-half-year prison sentence contravened Article 10, Freedom of Speech and Information, and Article 6, Right to a Fair Trial, of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. The Supreme Court refused to order his release, however, finding that the ECHR order, which is binding on member states, did not apply to a two-and-a-half-year drug sentence handed down in July. In calling for his release, HRW explained:
The authorities are maneuvering to make it look like they have complied with the European Court's judgment, but no one is fooled. It's clear that they are continuing to silence a journalist who has already served more than two years on a wrongful conviction.The rights organization went on to describe Fatullayev's case as one in a series of attacks on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.
In 2009, Fatullayev received, in absentia, one of Committee to Project Journalist's (CPJ) prestigious International Press Freedom Award [press release] and Amnesty International's Award for Journalism Under Threat. Fatullayev, who was editor-in-chief of the 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 in 2005. CPJ reported recently that Fatuallyev's imprisonment could be related to his attempts to solve [CPJ report] his colleague's murder. Azerbaijan's incumbent president Ilham Aliyev has been accused by members of the press of repression of the media [JURIST report].