An Azeri court affiliated to the country’s Ministry of National Security has handed down a two-year jail sentence to a member of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) local staff who was arrested in mid-February on false charges.
Anar Bayramli was arrested on February 18 on charges of carrying illicit drugs and has been kept in jail since then, though his charges were never proven.
Reacting to the court’s sentence, Bayramli, who has been recognized by international bodies including Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, called his trial a sham and added that the court was not independent, but complying with orders issued by Azeri executive officials.
The IRIB journalist also said summoning false witnesses by the kangaroo court trying him has further discredited Azerbaijan’s judiciary and police system.
Meanwhile, Bayramli’s attorney, Anar Ghasemlu, described the verdict as unjust adding, “Anar Bayramli is a prisoner of conscience and the court verdict is non-legal, unfair and a cause of shame [for Azeri judicial system].”
Ghasemlu said he would appeal the verdict and if his client is not released, he would even make recourse to the European Court of Human Rights.
After the judge read out the verdict, the audience raised their voice in protest calling the court officials powerless lackeys of the Azeri government.
On February 18, Azerbaijan's police and plainclothes forces arrested Bayramli at his house on charges of “carrying illicit drugs,” which had been put in his pocket by the local police, who claimed to have arrested him on the street.
A great number of international institutes and organizations including Reporters without Borders, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Baku’s Institute for Security and Freedom of Journalists, Journalists Rights Institute also in Baku, as well as Tehran-based Association of Muslim Journalists have emphasized that Bayramli has been arrested due to his professional activities and have called for his release.
Many Azeri personalities, scholars and party leaders have also said Bayramli’s incarceration proves the absence of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, urging the Azeri government to exercise more tolerance toward journalists and end their repression.