Azerbaijan reportedly has arrested for supposed narcotics peddling the brother-in-law of the director of Meydan TV, an online television station that has become a widely cited source of information about alleged abuses within President Ilham Aliyev’s administration .
In a July 27 Facebook statement, the Berlin-based station’s director, Emin Milli, claimed that the detention of his brother-in-law, Nazim Agabeyov, an IT professional, is intended to punish “relatives, family members and take them as hostages” for his station’s reporting. He dismissed the allegations as “bogus and absurd.”
Azerbaijan’s interior ministry has not commented on the report about Agabeyov’s arrest, Contact.az reported Turan news agency as saying. Agabeyov’s father, Mais, told the agency on July 27 that the family has had no contact with his son, nor with investigators since Nazim Agabeyov’s detention “several days ago.”
Drug charges are routinely filed against critics of the Aliyev government and their relatives.On July 22, a similar accusation was placed against Rufat Zakhidov, a nephew of the editor-in-chief of the opposition Azadliq (Freedom) newspaper, Ganimat Zakhidov, now living in self-imposed exile abroad. Another nephew and a cousin of Zakhidov were arrested a few days previously on minor charges.
Since the conclusion of the European Games this month, reports about officials taking an interest in Meydan TV also have increased.
Four Meydan TV reporters were prevented from crossing the Azerbaijani border into Georgia earlier this month, while Milli, who himself spent 16 months in prison for a video spoof of President Aliyev, has claimed that he received a personal threat from President Aliyev via Sports Minister Azad Rahimov.
But Milli's allegation about hostage-taking is not the first from Azerbaijani media circles.
A reporter for the now-shuttered RFE/RL bureau in Baku. Yafez Akramoglu, told IWPR that he’d been asked to turn himself over to the Azerbaijani security services or “they’d punish my family.”
Akramoglu said that he eventually traveled to an agreed-upon meeting point in Turkey to surrender his Azerbaijani passport, but claims that intervention by Turkish police prevented further actions by Azerbaijani officials. His family members, who had been detained in the airport of the Nakhchivan exclave, were released, he said.
The Azerbaijani government has denied the allegations as an invention, IWPR reported last week.
Meanwhile, trials of detained dissidents continue apace. On July 27, proceedings started in treason and fraud allegations against civil society activist Leyla Yunus and her husband, conflict and migration analyst Arif Yunusov. As in the case of jailed investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova’s July 24 trial, RFE/RL reported that most journalists and activists were barred from the courtroom.