I noticed that only media in Azerbaijan have been reporting the trial against Eynulla Fatullayev for questioning what happened in an Azeri village – Khojaly (Khojalu) – when Armenian forces occupied it during the Karabakh war of the 1990s.  Even the few reports are difficult to follow and understand (the word, “Armenian” for example, is not mentioned in any article perhaps to avoid attracting attention on the trial through popular “Armenian” keyword searches).  Here is a summary of Azerbaijani sources (in Russian and English) with a background on the journalist’s involvement.

An Azeri journalist, who has challenged the official Azerbaijan’s rhetoric that Armenian forces have massacred between 200-600 Azeri civilians in the 1990s, is facing charges for insulting Khojaly village refugees in an Azerbaijani district court, reports Azerbaijan’s Trend News Agency.

Photo source

Eynulla Fatullayev, editor-in-chief and founder of the Russian language Realni Azerbaijan and Azeri language Gundeliik newspapers, has reportedly accused the Azeri government for perpetrating the killings of Khojaly civilians – an event that Azeri officials and pro-government media refer to as “Khojaly genocide perpetrated by Armenians” – often denounced as “anti-Armenian propaganda” by others.

In 2006, Fatullayev visited Nagorno Karabakh – an Armenian enclave within Soviet Azerbaijan that proclaimed independence in 1991 and provoked war between Armenia and Azerbaijan – and wrote a long article in Russian called “Karabakh diary.” Fatullayev recalled in the diary of interviewing Azeri refugees from Khojaly in the 1990s who said that Armenian forces had warned the civilians several days before the attack about the upcoming operation and offered the civilians to leave the village through a humanitarian corridor along the river Kar-Kar (the exact scenario of the pre-operation presented by Armenian officials). Visiting Khojaly in 2006 and putting the account of some Azeri refugees with the geography of the village, Fatullayev concluded that “It seems that the battalions of Azerbaijani Popular Front strove not for the salvation of the Khojalies, but for a big blood.”

According to the March 1, 2007 issue of Today.az, a news website from Azerbaijan, “[a] group of [former] Khojaly residents held a protest action outside Gundelik Azerbaijan paper editorial office… and raised posters ‘Eynulla Fattulayev is dashnak’s (Armenian) agent.” They demanded depriving the journalist of citizenship and broke two windows of the office by throwing eggs.

A letter from Human Rights Watch to Azerbaijan’s president Illham Aliyev (dated February 9, 2007) accused the authorities for suppressing freedom of speech and persecuting journalists in the country. According to the letter, “Eynulla Fatullayev, editor-in-chief of Realny Azerbaijan and Gundelik Azerbaijan, was forced to suspend publication of both papers on October 1, 2006, after his father was kidnapped. The kidnappers threatened to kill Fatullayev, as well as his father, if Fatullayev continued to publish the papers. The kidnapping had been preceded by numerous phone threats against Fatullayev and his family.” The letter also denounced Azerbaijani courts for fining high amounts to journalists, including Fatullayev.

The Armenian government has long denied responsiblity for the massacre of between 200-600 Azeri civilians in Khojaly, charging one fraction of Azeri military – a political opposition group in Azerbaijan at the time- for orchestrating the event for anti-Armenian propaganda and domestic political purposes. They often recall the footage of Azerbaijani cameraman Chingiz Mustafayev, who shot footage of killed Azeri civilian corps from Khojaly – under Azeri control – both on February 29 and on March 2. The same corpses were mutilated on March 2, 2007 but not on February 29 – an incident that led Mustafayev to accuse Azerbaijani forces for orchestrating the mutilation of Azeri bodies. The footage was shown in the Azerbaijani parliament, followed by Mustafayev’s murder during filming military units of the Azerbaijani Popular Front.