AZERBAIJAN / Kidnapped May 29, 2017
“You can arrest or kill us, but others will continue the struggle. Our goal is not to overthrow Ilham Aliyev, but to give people hope.”
Afgan Mukhtarli is a well-known investigative journalist and political activist based in Tbilisi, Georgia, where he had been living in exile to avoid persecution in Azerbaijan. Afgan has contributed to RFE/RL Azeri Service, Meydan TV, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, and Eurasianet.org. Prior to his imprisonment, Afgan was investigating the offshore business of top Azerbaijani officials in Georgia. On May 29, 2017, he was kidnapped in Tbilisi and forcefully taken to Baku where he was put in prison. He faced fabricated charges of smuggling, illegal border crossing, as well as violently resisting a law enforcement official.
According to a recent Freedom Now report, there are significant questions about possible cooperation between Azerbaijani and Georgian authorities in the abduction of Afgan. After his imprisonment, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling upon the Azerbaijan government to immediately and unconditionally release Afgan. The United States State Department urged Georgian authorities to issue an independent and thorough investigation into his abduction. Afgan’s imprisonment was followed by a series of protests organized by Georgian civil society.
Afgan’s lawyers say that he is suffering from diabetes, as well as high blood pressure and that his health is deteriorating due to the inhumane conditions of the pre-trial detention facility. On December 2017 Afgan’s trial resumed and the prosecutor asked the court for an 8-year sentence. On January 12, 2018, Afgan was found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison. In February, he was briefly released for two days to visit the graves of his niece and nephew. He gave an interview during this time, in which he stated that the Azerbaijani and Georgian governments were both involved in his abduction and imprisonment.