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Last Updated: Friday, 2 November 2007, 11:52 GMT
US chides Azeris on press curbs
Map of Azerbaijan
The US has criticised Azerbaijan over the imprisonment of a newspaper editor, urging the Caucasus republic to respect the right to free speech.

Eynulla Fatullayev was given a sentence of eight-and-a-half years on Tuesday, on charges of making a terrorist threat and inciting inter-ethnic conflict.

The US Department of State said it appeared to be "an attempt to silence criticism and stifle free speech".

His two newspapers have been shut down. He has been in detention since April.

The latest charges against him stemmed from an article in one of the papers, Realny Azerbaijan, which spoke of sites in Azerbaijan that Iran may target in retaliation if Baku were to back US military action against Iran.

Plea for free speech

The US state department spokesman, Tom Casey, said prosecuting Mr Fatullayev under anti-terrorism laws "indicates a fear of the fundamental freedom of speech that is sharply at odds with the Government of Azerbaijan's professed desire to develop democratic institutions".

"We call on the Government of Azerbaijan to respect fully the rights of a free press and to support the development of an independent media in Azerbaijan," Mr Casey said on Thursday.

The sentence was also condemned by the main European democracy watchdog, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

It said the trial was "the culmination of a campaign to silence Fatullayev and to eliminate the country's two largest circulation newspapers".

The OSCE says he is one of seven journalists currently imprisoned in Azerbaijan on defamation and other charges.

The staff of Realny Azerbaijan and Gundelik Azerbaijan were evicted from their offices earlier this year and both papers were shut down.

Azerbaijan has close ties with the US and has contributed troops to the US-led coalition force in Iraq.

SEE ALSO
Country profile: Azerbaijan
26 Sep 07 |  Country profiles



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