Huseynov TsereteliGeorge Tsereteli (right) visiting journalist Mehman Huseynov in prison on 16 March 2018 in Azerbaijan.COPENHAGEN, 22 January 2019 – OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President George Tsereteli (MP, Georgia) today welcomed reports from Azerbaijan that the General Prosecutor’s Office has terminated a criminal case against anti-corruption blogger and chair of the media NGO Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety Mehman Huseynov. Huseynov has been detained on defamation charges since March 2017 and in December 2018, new charges were initiated against him that could have extended his imprisonment by seven years.

“I am happy that the new charges against Mr. Huseynov have been dropped and that he can once again look forward to his expected release date in early March,” President Tsereteli said. “When I visited Mr. Huseynov and observed his prison conditions just under a year ago, I expressed hope that he would be released soon. Therefore, the initiation of new charges against him in December was a cause for deep concern and I am relieved that these criminal proceedings have been terminated. I have followed his case closely and regularly raised it in my discussions with parliamentary colleagues and Azerbaijani authorities, including President Aliyev, and am pleased that he has paid personal attention to this case.”

Tsereteli added that democratic reforms in Azerbaijan, particularly on freedom of the media and on creating conditions to maximize the contribution of civil society, should continue.

Last week, the Chair of the OSCE PA’s human rights committee, Margareta Kiener Nellen (MP, Switzerland), raised concerns over Huseynov’s treatment and reiterated the call by OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir for the authorities to drop new criminal charges brought against him. OSCE PA Vice-President Azay Guliyev (MP, Azerbaijan) also raised this case in a public statement issued 12 January in which he noted that he had discussed the matter with relevant bodies in Azerbaijan and had received assurances that it was being objectively examined.