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Azeri Correspondent Receives Threats Tied to Reporting

Azerbaijan -- Journalist Yafez Akramoglu (Hasanov), RFE/RL Azerbaijani service Nakhichevan correspondent, 02Sep2011
Yafez Hasanov, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, has received telephone threats since investigating the death last year of a man in the custody of Azerbaijan's Ministry of National Security.

The man, Turac Zeynalov, was found dead in August 2011 in a detention facility run by the Ministry of National Security's Naxicivan bureau, where he had been summoned the day before and accused of spying for Iran.

Hasanov, who has been investigating information he recently obtained about the case, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that he has received repeated telephone calls and text messages over the last four days from unidentified persons threatening reprisals against him and his family if he does not stop reporting. In one text he was warned, "you'll end up like Zeynalov." In one phone call he was told, “if you do not stop [reporting], you’ll be shocked by what you see.”

Hasanov changed his phone number, but the calls continued. He has submitted the phone numbers from which the threats came to Ramil Usubov, Azerbaijan's Interior Minister, for investigation.

Hasanov, a free-lancer based in Naxichivan, an Azeri exclave, was kidnapped last year after first reporting on the case. Following a meeting with the family to investigate the circumstances of Zeynalov's death, he was stopped on the street by several unknown men and pulled into an unmarked car. He was told not to report about the case, and warned that to do so could lead to "embarrassment." Hasanov was driven to a customs office on the Iranian border where he was left to return to Baku via Iran. He was warned not to return to Naxcivan for a month or "it would cost him."

The Azeri government has not responded to calls by RFE/RL and other organizations to investigate the incident.

Azerbaijan's Human Rights Ombudsman Elmira Suleymanova requested in September last year that the Prosecutor-General and National Security Minister investigate Zeynalov's death.

Hasanov has reported for RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service, Radio Azadliq, since 2010.

A version of this report by RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service is here.