RFE/RL Azerbaijani Correspondent Abducted, Expelled to Iran

A freelance correspondent for RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service, Radio Azadliq, is back in Baku after being abducted and forcibly expelled to the Iranian border by unidentified men in the Azerbaijani exclave of Naxcivan.

Yafez Hasanov had been in the Julfa district to investigate the death of Turac Zeynalov, who had been summoned to Naxcivan’s National Security Ministry on August 24 on accusations of “working for Iran” and found dead the following day. Family members told Hasanov they had been warned by authorities not to discuss the case, but said they believed he was tortured because the body bore bruises and blood stains and the head was disfigured.

Hasanov, who has reported for Radio Azadliq since 2010, said on Wednesday (August 31) he was planning to investigate other sensitive cases in the region when three men in a vehicle commonly used by state security agents stopped him on the street and told him to get in the car.

The men then took Hasanov’s passport and told him not to report about Zeynalov’s murder, warning that doing so could lead to “embarrassment” as Zeynalov was a “traitor.”

Hasanov was driven to the district customs office and told to cross the border and return to Baku via Iran. His passport was returned to him with a stamp from the Azerbaijani border control indicating he had exited the country, and he was warned not to return to Naxcivan for a month or “it would cost” him. Hasanov got a taxi in Iran and arrived in Baku Thursday morning (September 1).

RFE/RL is considered an illegal organization in Iran.

RFE/RL President Steven Korn called the incident “outrageous, dangerous, and criminal,” and said that “it warrants an explanation from the Azerbaijani government.”

Radio Azadliq officials in Baku sent a letter today to Azerbaijan’s Human Rights Ombudsman Elmira Suleymanova to request that she investigate the incident.

Suleymanova has also asked the prosecutor-general and national security minister to gather additional information relating to Zeynalov’s death.

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