Award-winning photojournalist detained
(IRFS/IFEX) – 13 June 2012 – The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) resolutely condemns the unlawful detention of Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety employee Mehman Huseynov, and urges the local and international community to take immediate action to prevent Mehman from being unjustly sentenced to a lengthy prison term.
Mehman, 23 years old, was summoned to the Sabayil District Police station and was taken into police custody at approximately 9 p.m. this evening (Tuesday, June 12, 2012) Baku time for 48 hours after three hours of questioning. He is accused under Article 221.1 of Azerbaijan's Criminal Code – Hooliganism. At this point there is not court decision on Mehman's detention, however a court decision will be necessary to detain him past 48 hours and to place him in pre-trial detention. The charges against Mehman stem from a verbal disagreement that he had with police at an unsanctioned protest in front of the Baku Mayoral Office on May 21, 2012. Mehman was at the event carrying out his professional duties, when police used force against both protesters and journalists, including Mehman and other IRFS employees. Police broke the camera that Mehman was using at the event. If convicted, Mehman faces up to one year of imprisonment.
IRFS believes that the charges against Mehman are completely groundless, and the real reason for his detention is his professional work. IRFS suspects that the order to detain Mehman has come from the highest echelons of Azerbaijan's government in retribution for the human rights work of both IRFS and Mehman, particularly within the framework of Eurovision.
Mehman is one of Azerbaijan's most well-known videographers and photographers. His video clips and photographs are always widely disseminated throughout social media and often picked up by the local and international press. Mehman has collaborated with numerous international media outlets, particularly within the framework of Eurovision, which was held two weeks ago in Azerbaijan, and was extremely active in the Sing for Democracy campaign.
Mehman was featured in this recent German mini-documentary on Eurovision. He was one of the 2010 winners of the Democracy Challenge US State Dept. Photo Challenge. Mehman's YouTube channel has nearly 2,000 subscribers and nearly 2.5 million views.
Mehman was previously detained by Interior Ministry officials on March 11, 2011. He was handcuffed and taken the Organized Crime Department, where Organized Crime Department employees interrogated about his activities on social media networks and advised him to be less active. He is the brother of IRFS Director Emin Huseynov.
IRFS calls for Mehman Huseynov's immediate release. In addition, IRFS calls on international organizations to vociferously call for Mehman's release and for the spurious charges against him to be immediately dropped. Immediate action is imperative to prevent Mehman's 48 hour pre-trial detention from turning into a lengthily prison sentence.
Facebook page to free Mehman Huseynov
Photojournalist released on bail; still faces criminal charges (Committee to Protect Journalists, 14 June 2012)