On March 3, 2017, popular video blogger Mehman Huseynov was sentenced in Baku to two years on charges of slander.
In his final statement Huseynov called the decision bogus before adding that someone must have not liked his work, and that he was being punished for that reason.
Huseynov is an administrator of a popular Facebook page where he shares videos on a vast number of topics, from poor working conditions to the lavish lifestyles of government officials and their ownership of real estate. His page has over 300,000 followers.
Rights groups and Azerbaijan observers were quick to call on Azerbaijan's authoritarian government to release the young blogger.
Instead of investigating credible allegation of ill-treatment, #Azerbaijan jails outspoken critic #MehmanHuseynov for 2 years. #FreeMehman! pic.twitter.com/Kfe0gadI4A
— Giorgi Gogia (@Giorgi_Gogia) March 3, 2017
UNACCEPTABLE:#Azerbaijan blogger #MehmanHuseynov sentenced to 2 years on false defamation charges #FreeMehman #media https://t.co/peMpcooWEC pic.twitter.com/RmIDrjbY8G
— Civil Society Forum (@eapcsf) March 3, 2017
You think @presidentaz it’s okay to imprison and punish #HumanRightsDefenders… We say no! Release #MehmanHuseynov #HRC34 https://t.co/wE2J8S4ORg
— Florian Irminger (@FlorianIrminger) March 3, 2017
The timing of Huseynov's arrest could have been better from a government perspective. The Geneva based rights organization Human Rights Houses tweeted that they would address the issue at the 34th meeting of the UN-backed Human Rights Council and call for his immediate release.
We will take the floor at #HRC34 in 45 minutes, calling for immediate & unconditional release of #MehmanHuseynov #Azerbaijan @ForstMichel
— Human Rights Houses (@HRHFoundation) March 3, 2017
Daha bir qurban getdi, hə? Dincəldinizmi? #MehmanHuseynov
— Fuad Həsənli (@fuadhasanli) March 3, 2017
One more prayer gone. Are you satisfied now?
Huseynov was detained on January 9 in central Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, by a group of plainclothes police officers.
He was held incommunicado overnight, allegedly for violating administrative rules. The next day, a court fined him 200AZN (more than $100) on charges of disobeying the police (Article 535.1 of the Code of Administrative Offences).
Speaking to journalists following his brief detention, Huseynov said police placed a sack over his head and used force against him during detention. On January 11, his lawyer Elchin Sadigov published pictures of Huseynov’s body indicating torture and his clothes covered in blood stains.
While arresting, silencing, and intimidating journalists, bloggers, and activists is par for the course in Azerbaijan these days, Huseynov is the first blogger or journalist to be officially sentenced for slander by a court in Azerbaijan.
Prior cases of journalists or bloggers being sentenced typically saw narcotics possession (often bogus), hooliganism, abuse of power, and tax evasion as common charges.