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Georgia protects detained Azeri journalist’s family

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, June 7
Georgia’s security service will protect the family of the Azeri investigative journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, who has been detained in Azerbaijan for allegedly smuggling contraband and illegally crossing the border after two years in exile from his homeland.

Mukhtarli’s family and lawyers claim the charges were invented, and he might have been handed to the Azerbaijani government by Georgian law enforcers, as the journalist was in a state of feud with the Azerbaijani authorities for his investigations into the activities of top figures of the country.

Mukhtarli’s wife, Leila Mustafaeva, rejected the offer of Georgian citizenship, as she said that before her husband was detained, she was refused residency status in Georgia due to her being considered 'a danger'.

“It has been decided to provide them with security service,” the family's lawyer, Archil Chopikashvili, stated. “They will also be able to use alarm calls to alert the police. The issue of protecting the witnesses will also be resolved shortly.”

Mustafaeva met with police officers together with her lawyer on June 5.

Their conversation most pertained to the security of Mukhtarli’s family and the case witnesses.

“We are in full contact with the government and we know that it appreciates how serious the allegations are,” U.S. Ambassador Ian Kelly said over the case.

He stated he will hold a meeting with media representatives at the embassy concerning the issue.

“I think most of you saw the statement of the U.S. Department of State on the weekend, where we called on Azerbaijan to release Mr. Mukhtarli. We urge Georgia to have a full investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Mukhtarli’s disappearance from Georgia. We are in full contact with the government of Georgia,” Kelly said.

Mukhtarli disappeared from Tbilisi, where he had lived since 2015, on May 29, and the next day he was found detained in Baku.

Georgia is investigating how he managed to travel to Baku without crossing the border.

Georgia’s security officials stated that he may have crossed the so-called green border, the area where passports are not checked.