An Azerbaijani journalist, who is serving 2 1/2 years of prison for having challenged Azerbaijan’s official line that Armenian forces deliberatly massacred a few hundred Azerbaijanis during the Nagorno-Karabakh war in Khojalu, has been given another 8 1/2 years of prison for speculating that Azerbaijan “could support a U.S. attack on neighboring Iran.”
The Court for Grave Crimes convicted Eynulla Fatullayev, the founder and editor of two independent newspapers that stopped publication this spring amid government pressure, on charges of making a terrorist threat and inciting interethnic conflict.
The article in Real Azerbaijan claimed that President Ilham Aliev could support an American military operation against Iran and listed facilities that might face Iranian bomb attacks if the nation were to back the U.S.
There is concern in mostly Muslim former Soviet republics that support U.S. military operations in Iraq or Afghanistan over the possibility that the United States could use their territory for an attack on Iran – a constant topic of rumors.
Azerbaijan has pledged that it won’t assist the U.S. but people living along the border were nervous, pointing to an American-built radar facility and the upgrading of a nearby airport.
Fatullayev, who already is serving a 2 1/2 year prison sentence on a libel conviction, denounced the verdict as politically motivated.
“That’s evidence of political pressure on me as a journalist,” he said.
Aliev, who took over from his father in a 2003 election denounced by opponents as a sham, has faced persistent criticism over the heavy-handed treatment of independent media and opposition parties.
As much as being an issue of freedom of speech, Azerbaijan’s persecution of Fatullayev is clearly not for his views on a possible attack on Iran but for having challenged Azerbaijan’s anti-Armenian rhetoric of charging Armenian forces with a massacre of Azeri civilians in 1992 in a village in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The anti-Armenianism is Azerbaijan has no boundaries, and people who challenge it in Azerbaijan pay a huge price, let’s say, at least, 10 years for now.