With neighbors cheering in the streets, 34-year-old Azerbaijani newspaper journalist Eynulla Fatullayev experienced a triumphant homecoming on May 26 after four years in prison.
Fatullayev was jailed in 2007 on a variety of charges, including defamation, inciting “national hatred” and tax evasion. Since then, diplomats, local and international civil and human rights activists and journalists had campaigned for his release. Supporters portrayed Fatullayev as prisoner of conscience, jailed for the publication of articles critical of the government.
As neighbors, friends and well-wishers, including Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan leader Ali Kerimli, crowded into the journalist’s one-story Baku house to congratulate him, Fatullayev expressed gratitude to “all those who made the effort” for work for his release, including President Ilham Aliyev. Fatullayev had served half of his 8 ½-year prison sentence at the time of his release.
Fatullayev’s pardon was part of an annual prisoner amnesty for Republic Day, which commemorates Azerbaijan’s independence, which falls on May 28. Human rights activists say that Fatullayev is the only known political prisoner on the list of 90 amnestied prisoners.
In an interview with Radio Liberty’s Azerbaijani Service, Fatullayev, the former editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Realny Azerbaijan and Gündəlik Azərbaycan newspapers, said that he plans to return to journalism. “These four years I’ve been constantly reading and learning new things,” he said. “All these efforts for my beliefs were made because I was always preaching the global values of democracy and human rights and [I] will continue doing that.”
Khadija Ismayilova is a freelance reporter in Baku and hosts a daily program on current affairs broadcast by the Azeri Service of RFE/RL.