Journalist Rauf Mirkadyrov, who was detained by Azerbaijani authorities in April of this year, has had his pre-trial detention extended for another four months.
The former writer for Russian-language newspaper Zekarlo was deported from Turkey on April 19th where he was put in custody under suspicion of treason. Mirkadyrov is accused of conspiring with the special services of Armenia, including disclosing state secrets about the movement of Azeri armed forces in 2008-2009.
Although Mirkadyrov has regularly travelled to Armenia for conferences and events doubts have been cast over the likelihood of him being a spy. Reporters Without Borders, an international freedom-of-speech advocacy group, called for the immediate release of Mirkadyrov, stating “by keeping Mirkadyrov in detention the politicized judicial system is showing that it is bent on persecuting him.”
Former colleagues and friends of the detained journalist have also spoken out in his defence. Mehman Aliyev, director of Azerbaijani press agency Turan told press, “Rauf is a patriot of Azerbaijan and his articles have never contained anything against the country’s interests,”
While still active as a writer Mirkadyrov was often critical of Azeri authorities and it is suspected that his arrest is politically motivated.
According a 2014 report from Reporters Without Borders Azerbaijan is ranked 160th out of 180 globally for freedom of press, raising concerns over the free speech of Azeri citizens.
It is currently believed that Azerbaijan currently has an additional ten journalists and five bloggers in detention or imprisoned who have publicly criticised the Azerbaijani regime.