Azerbaijani journalist: "They could not handcuff my tongue"April 18, 2009 • By Simon Maghakyan
Image source (edited)
After three years of prison, famous Azerbaijani satirist and poet Sakit Zahidov (aka Mirza Sakit) is free.
In the words of an Amnesty International USA press release:
…Sakit Zahidov was pardoned under an amnesty act passed in March by the country’s parliament, the Milli Mejlis.
Serious doubt had been cast on Sakit Zahidov’s conviction and imprisonment after the authorities’ failed to clarify ambiguities in the evidence and irregularities in trial procedures. Amnesty International considered him to be a prisoner of conscience.
Reporters Without Borders has hailed the release:
“This is great news. It is a significant development for press freedom in Azerbaijan, a country ruled by President Aliev with an iron hand. We share the joy of Zahidov’s family, lawyers and support committee, who had been awaiting his release since last month, and we urge the authorities to free the three other journalists still in prison. They include Zahidov’s elder brother Ganimat, who was given a four-year sentence in March 2008.”
In an interview, Mr. Zahidov said:
I was really nervous, when they handcuffed me. But they could not handcuff my tongue. It is clear that it was instruction from the “top.” But the administration had a headache after that during a long period of time.
Talking about his future plans, he added:
I am going to publish my poems. There are also some plans, which can be carried into life through electronic media. I would like to say that it is not a tragedy to get into prison, but release from prison is not happiness, either. However, I feel happy, because I am free today and because I was in jail yesterday
In the words of Reporters Without Borders:
The three other journalists still in prison are Ganimat Zahidov of Azadlig, Eynulla Fatullaiev of Realny Azerbaijan and Gundelik Azerbaijan and Mushfig Husseynov of Bizim Yol. Azerbaijan was ranked 150th out of 173 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. President Aliev is on the organisation’s list of “Predators of Press Freedom.”