The IRCT strongly condemns the kidnapping of Azerbaijani journalist and human rights activist, Mr. Afgan Mukhtarli in Tbilisi, Georgia and his illegal transfer to Azerbaijan, where he appeared in custody in Baku, beaten up and charged with smuggling and illegally crossing the border.
With space for civil society continuously shrinking in Azerbaijan, many local journalists and human rights defenders have relocated to Georgia to continue their legitimate work. This was the case of Mr. Mukhtarli. Mr Mukhtarli, who has been receiving treatment in Tbilisi, at Georgian Center for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (GCRT), reported prior to his abduction that he was under surveillance to both the Georgian authorities and the media.
Mr. Mukhtarli’s lawyer Elchin Sadigov reported that unidentified Georgian-speaking men kidnapped the journalist, put a bag over his head, beat him, changed cars twice and stuffed €10,000 in his pockets before transporting him across the border to Azerbaijan. Once at the border checkpoint, they took photographs and arrested Mr. Mukhtarli for crossing the border without a passport.
According to credible reports, Mr. Mukhtarli was further ill-treated in Azerbaijan and suffered from a broken nose and several bruises on his face. On 30 June, a Baku court charged him for smuggling, crossing the border illegally and violently resisting arrest, and ordered pretrial custody for three months. The journalist’s lawyers will appeal the ruling.
While Georgian authorities are suspected of being complicit in the abduction, international rights groups and activists are calling for them to investigate and hold accountable those involved in the operation. Georgia's chief prosecutor, Irakli Shotadze, said an investigation is currently being conducted.
”The kidnapping and smuggling of the client of a torture rehabilitation centre is an outrageous violation of numerous international standards. The Georgian government must undertake all necessary actions for swift and effective investigation of this appalling case and bring the perpetrators to justice. We call also on Azerbaijani authorities to guarantee humane treatment standards for Mr. Mukhtarli and to investigate, prosecute and punish all allegations of torture against him,” said Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Secretary-General of the IRCT.