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Azeri journalist kidnapped in Georgia for Azerbaijan

By Messenger Staff
Friday, June 2
The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia has released a statement over the case of Azerbaijani journalist Afghan Mukhtarli, who disappeared in central Tbilisi on May 29. He was later found in Baku, the country in which he was persecuted.

Mukhtarli’s lawyer stated that the man was beaten up and allegedly, Georgian law enforcers helped the neighbouring country to detain him, which, according to him, was a violation of international norms.

The lawyer also stated that the activist and journalist was now detained for illegally crossing border and on charges of contraband, as police found 10,000 USD in his pocket after his detention.

Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs has stated they have launched an investigation over the issue for the illegal depravation of liberty.

“Communication is under way with Azerbaijan. As soon as the factual circumstances are established, the public will be provided with detailed information," the Ministry stated.

The head of Georgia’s State Security Service, Vakhtang Gomelauri, said the man was detained on the Green Border, an area where passports are not needed.

"We should not hurry to make statements. I will refrain from doing so. According to the Azerbaijani side, they detained the journalist while crossing the Green Border and not at the checkpoint. We will study this fact," said Gomelauri.

The Prosecutor’s Office of Azerbaijan said Mukhtarli was detained while “illegally crossing the border” and he was found with a large amount of money.

Georgian NGOs held a rally in front of the government administration building in Tbilisi on May 31, condemning their complicity and stating that from all points of view, the current Georgian authorities are guilty.

They stressed that even if the activist had not been handed over by Georgia, the fact that he later appeared in Baku meant that the border was not appropriately protected.

“Unfortunately, I cannot rule out that Aliyev's regime in Azerbaijan may force Afghan Mukhtarli to commit suicide or he may be killed some other way,” Azeri human rights defender and politician Vidadi Isdanov told the Georgia media.

He stated Mukhtarli was investigating "Aliyev's mafia Investments in Georgia".

“The investigation showed a lot of interesting things, which is why Mukhtarli had been systematically followed. It turned out that Ilham Aliyev and his family have banks, hotels and restaurants in Georgia,” he said.

“He [Mukhtarli] had recently given an interview to the Voice of America, where he said that there was a risk of his imminent detention,” said Isdanov.

The United National Movement and the European Georgia opposition parties directly accused Georgian special forces of handing over the man to the Azerbaijani authorities.

They stressed Georgia would be grilled because of this by the international community.

Georgia’s Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili stated the relevant state structures should be held responsible with regards to the case.

He stressed this fact makes him feel that nobody is protected in this country and this could happen again.

"It is a very sad and alarming fact that a person can disappear in the center of the city, and then we learn that he is a victim of torture and ill-treatment in another neighboring state. The relevant state structures should be held responsible with regards to the case, politically and otherwise,” Nanuashvili said.

Georgia’s Prime Minister and Interior Minister refrained from commenting on the issue.

This incident raises serious question marks over the government’s competency and morality.

The key question is that why a man who was persecuted in his homeland and was seeking political asylum in Georgia, would illegally cross the border of the country where his life could be at risk.

The charges he is facing in Azerbaijan are also a cause for concern.

Georgia must answer all the questions posed by the public and the international community, as the incident could have a very negative influence on the country’s image.