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NGOs Demand Meeting with Chief Prosecutor over High-profile Case of Azeri Journalist

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, January 30
(TBILISI)--Georgia’s leading Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) demanded the meeting with the country’s Chief Prosecutor Irakli Shotadze to find out details about the high-profile case of Azerbaijani investigative journalist Afghan Mukhtarli, who went missing from Tbilisi in May 2017 and emerged in Baku in detention.

The NGOs are asking for details and findings of the investigation that was launched in Georgia at the end of May last year, to clarify how Mukhtarli appeared in Baku from central Tbilisi.

The 11 NGOs, Georgia’s Young Lawyers’ Association, Transparency International Georgia and others, also call on the Prosecutor's Office to grant victim’s status to Mukhtarli and his wife Leyla Mustafayeva.

“Despite the fact that eight months have already been passed since the incident, details and results of the investigation are still unknown to the public. Serious questions arise about the effectiveness of the investigation,” the NGOs say.

“The ineffective investigation of the incident threatens the image of Georgia's democracy, which has been repeatedly noted by international partners,” the NGOs added.

Mukhtarli, who disappeared from central Tbilisi on May 29 last year, was sentenced to six years in prison by the Balakan district court in Azerbaijan on January 12, 2018.

The court found him guilty of illegal crossing of border, smuggling in money and resisting the border guards.

Mukhtarli claims he was abducted from Tbilisi for his investigations about top figures of Azerbaijan, their businesses in Georgia and connections with the Georgian government.

Mukhtarli’s wife, Leyla Mustafayeva, who is also an investigative journalist, has stated that his husband’s verdict was part of a “joint deal” between the Georgian and Azerbaijani leaderships.

“My husband was abducted from Tbilisi. The charges he was sentenced for are invented. Mukhtarli’s arrest is an international offence that was committed by the Georgian and Azeri leaderships. Governments of the both countries are responsible for the arrest,” Mustafayeva said.

Mustafayeva wrote that his husband was investigating Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s and his family’s businesses in Georgia, as well as business interests between the Aliyev family and the Georgian government members.

The US President Donald Trump’s administration and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) called for the release of the journalist.

Mukhtarli’s case was also mentioned in the most recent report of the Human Rights Watch.