Zeynallov may be facing serious charges of blackmail and bribery, but, given Azerbaijan’s record of jailing journalists/bloggers critical of the government, local observers are erring on the side of skepticism. Before his arrest, Zeynallov crossed the country’s ruling elite with a series of articles about corruption allegations.
If found guilty, he faces a punishment of up to 12 years in jail and the confiscation of personal property.
Zeynallov was remanded after Gular Ahmadova, a parliamentarian from the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, claimed that he had demanded a bribe from her to hold off on publishing an article that covered corruption accusations against Ahmadova. Zeynallov’s attorney alleges the exact opposite -- that it was Ahmadova who offered to pay the editor for his silence.
Although the journalist's attorney says he has not yet seen any of the government's evidence against his client, police already have been busy searching away. The day of Zeynallov's arrest, they tackled the Khural newsroom and his apartment.
Hasanov, who earlier had indicated some openness to making libel a civil charge, cited an “increase in racketeering facts, intentional insult of the honor and dignity of people, the lack of meaningful attempts to improve professional standards [by Azerbaijani journalists]" to back up his case.
In other words, spare the rod and spoil the child?