Imprisoned Azeri Journalist Enters Hunger Strike

An Azerbaijani reporter serving a six-year sentence for illegally carrying cash over the border entered a hunger strike on Sunday in protest over how prison staff was treating his lawyer, an activist reported.

AfganMukhtarAfgan Mukhtarli (Photo: Afgan Mukhtarli/Facebook)In May 2017, Afghan Mukhtarli disappeared from Tbilisi and reappeared two days later in a Baku courtroom. He was found guilty of illegally crossing the border back into his native Azerbaijan, assaulting a border guard, and carrying 10,000 euro of undeclared currency.

Mukhtarli, however, claims he was kidnapped in Georgia, forced across the border while the money was planted on him.

“I started a hunger strike because of the lawless action and violence against my lawyer Nemat Karimli,” Mukhtarli said, according to activist Samir Asadli. He also accused the deputy chairman of the prison administration Emin Eminaliyev for the harassment.

After visiting his client on Saturday, the lawyer was searched and guards tried to read the notes he took during the meeting with Mukhtarli, Meydan reported. After the lawyer tried to stop them, Eminaliyev allegedly forcefully took his bag.

“He read my notes and took them to the chairman. They kept me for 45-50 minutes in one of their rooms, then gave me my documents back and let me go,” Karimli said in a Facebook post.

After he heard about the incident, Mukhtarli entered a hunger strike and stopped taking his medications. He urged President Ilham Aliyev to investigate the incident objectively.

“Afghan suffers from type 2 diabetes,” his wife, Leyla Mustafayeva, posted. “A hunger strike is harmful to his health. The risk of his falling into a coma is high.”

Mukhtarli’s trial was marked by controversies. His lawyer complained that none of his complaints were considered by the judge and Mukhtarli himself claimed the whole affair was an attack on freedom of speech.

In a two-page handwritten letter presented to the court in April 2018, Mukhtarli wrote to the judge: "Freedom of speech and the press can be silenced, but the voice of your conscience cannot be silenced.

His lawyers said they will take the case to the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg.