(Washington, DC--July 13, 2004) Melahat Nasibova, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, announced that she would appeal a guilty verdict announced today by the Nakhichevan City court, in a libel case filed by the head of a local drug abuse rehabilitation center. The Court fined Nasibova 40 million Azeri manats (US$ 8,100) and told her to apologize "on air" to Dr. Rashadat Nabatov, chief physician at the "Narcological Clinic" in Nakhichevan city, for using quotes by Dr. Nabatov about drug treatment statistics.
In her report, aired by the Azerbaijani Service on April 4, 2004, Nasibova cites statements made to her by Dr. Nabatov concerning drug abuse in Nakhichevan and the number of registered drug addicts in this autonomous exclave of Azerbaijan.
In late April, Dr. Nabatov called Nasibova to a meeting at the local office of the Interior Ministry's Office on Drug Abuse where Nabatov and Nasibova were asked to "reconcile" and Nasibova was urged to apologize to Dr. Nabatov for using the quotation. Nasibova refused, at which point Dr. Nabatov stated that he would sue her for "libel" and "insulting his dignity." Nasibova, who also works as a correspondent for the Turan news agency, told RFE/RL that she has also received e-mails containing threats if she were to publicize details of the case.
Nasibova will appeal the Nakhichevan City Court's verdict to the Supreme Court of the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic and then on to the republican Court of Appeal in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku.
RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service broadcasts five and one half hours of programming a day to Azerbaijan, produced in Prague and the service's Baku Bureau and transmitted to listeners via shortwave, satellite and AM signals provided by local affiliate stations. Azerbaijani Service programming is also available via the Internet, at the service's website www.azadses.org and at www.rferl.org.