Mukhtarli Lawyers Seek Questioning of Azerbaijan Passenger

Lawyers for Afgan Mukhtarli, the Azerbaijan journalist who disappeared from Tbilisi and was next seen two days later in a Baku prison, asked a judge on Thursday to further question a witness of what Mukhtarli claims was his abduction.

MukhtarliAfgan Mukhtarli entering court (Photo: OCCRP)Mukhtarli says he was kidnapped, forcibly taken across the border from Georgia to Azerbaijan, and that Azer Shirinov was in the car that took him from the border to Baku. At a December 14 hearing, Shirinov told Azerbaijan prosecutors he was a witness. Mukhtarli is charged with crossing the border illegally, carrying 10,000 euro of undeclared currency, and assaulting a border guard.

The judge said he would make a decision on whether he would allow further questioning of Shirinov later. He refused a motion to allow Mukhtarli's lawyers to question the person who evaluated Mukhtarli's medical condition during the arrest process.

At the hearing held in Bakalan District Court near the Georgia border, a driver, testifying for the prosecution, says he was also a witness. He says he was sitting in a border office when an alarm went off. He ran outside and says he saw Mukhtarli trying to cross the border.

Outside the courtroom, Mukhtarli's lawyers questioned the truthfulness of that testimony. Journalists from Meydan TV and Toplum TV were among those denied access to the courtroom.

Mukhtarli had been living in Georgia after fleeing Azerbaijan. He wrote investigative stories trying to trace the assets of Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev.

The next session of the court is scheduled in Balakan on January 5 at 11 am.