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Journalist, previously beaten over article on logging, stabbed in chest

(IRFS/IFEX) - On 13 March 2008, at 7:50 p.m. (local time), "Azadlig" newspaper correspondent Agil Khalil was stabbed in the chest as he was leaving the Azerbaijan Publishing House where his office is located.

"Azadlig" director Azer Ahmedov, whom Khalil immediately called after he was stabbed, told IRFS that four people were involved in the attack. Two approached Khalid from the front and two from behind. One stabbed the 25-year-old once in the chest, while the others prevented him from running away. Khalil told Ahmedov that he recognized one of his attackers.

Khalil was admitted to the Musa Naigyev First Aid Hospital where he underwent a minor operation to close the stab wound. Doctors told IRFS that the attackers' knife thankfully missed his heart and his life is not in danger.

Security guards prevented IRFS employees and others from speaking directly to Khalil, saying the journalist wasn't allowed to have visitors because he is in the intensive care unit.

IRFS was also at Yasamal District Police Department #26, where it was announced that the incident is being investigated by lead investigator Elchin Mammedov. IRFS sought an interview with Mammedov, but was informed he was at the hospital taking a statement from Khalil. Upon hearing this, IRFS went to the hospital again and waited for Mammedov, but it was later announced that Mammedov did not want to speak to the press and had left secretly through a back door.

In the evening, IRFS went to the scene of the incident; at the time, it was being inspected by Yasamal District Police Chief Mohuobet Huseynov. Two witnesses of the attack spoke to police but refused to speak to IRFS employees, as did others in the vicinity - such as shop owners - who might have witnessed the incident.

It is possible that this attack is related to the 22 February beating that Khalil was subjected to in Zeytun Baglari, while he was trying to report on trees being cut down. On that day, Khalil was violently attacked by two men, aged 45-55, who grabbed Khalil's press identification card and never returned it, and also tried to take the journalist's camera. Khalil sustained a broken finger and other injuries from that assault. The attackers also tried to strangle him with the cord to his camera and kicked him when he fell to the ground. You can view a secretly recorded footage of the attack on IRFS' website http://www.irfs.az or at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=422fu6Xn6P0 . Khalil has been very aggressively seeking for this incident to be filed as a criminal case.

To view photos from the evening of 13 March taken by IRFS during its initial investigation into the attack on Khalil, see: http://www.irfs.az/component/option,com_datsogallery/Itemid,30/func,viewcategory/catid,24/

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