For Azerbaijan, this week has been a busy one. But, critics charge, not in the way you might expect from a country that holds a leadership position in Europe’s senior human-rights body, the Council of Europe.
On July 14, 57-year-old Hasan Huseynli, a prominent, regional non-governmental-organization leader, was sentenced to roughly six years in prison for allegedly illegally carrying weapons and supposedly wounding a person with a knife.
It was a charge that took even the usually reserved US embassy aback. “Given his mild manner and history of promoting civic engagement and education, it is virtually impossible to believe Huseynli used a knife against a local resident, as the prosecution claimed,” the embassy said in a statement.
Previously, Huseynli was the head of Ganja Education Information Center established in 1998. The center helped young Azerbaijanis interested in graduate and undergraduate education abroad, especially in the United States.
For the past ten years, Huseynli, who has acted as a source for this reporter, has run the Ganja-based Intelligent Citizen Enlightenment Center Public Union (Kamil Vətəndaş" Maarifləndirmə Mərkəzi İctimai Birliyi), a center that organizes various youth-related activities to encourage civil society in western Azerbaijan.
Most of its financing came from foreign sources; a fact likely to raise an eyebrow in certain circles in Baku, given ongoing government suspicions about NGO registrations.*
EurasiaNet.org spoke with Zeynallov in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, where he is now living.
What stands behind your deportation? Is it the next step by [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s government to silence the media?
This is the first time in Turkish history since World War II that an elected government has that much influence on the Turkish media and putting [a] tremendous amount of pressure on media bosses to fire critical journalists while co-opting others. My deportation is part of this troubling trend, no doubt about that. It has resonated around the world because the deportation came over a pair of tweets, which the government of Erdoğan claimed to be portraying his administration as . . .one protecting al-Qaeda. My English account is followed by foreign journalists, activists, academics, politicians and other public figures. Erdoğan was disturbed to see I was spreading a news report that he didn't want to be displayed.
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