Afgan Mukhtarli’s Wife Speaks of Spying, Demands Investigation
Leyla Mustafayeva, wife of Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, who went missing on May 29 in Tbilisi and appeared in a detention facility in Baku a day later, said that the facts of spying on her family remain uninvestigated and released photo and video materials showing the persons who allegedly spied on her.
Speaking at a press conference on September 19, Mustafayeva claimed that spying on her family began well before Mukhtarli’s disappearance, which, in her words, continues until now and intensifies with the arrival of top Azerbaijani officials to Georgia. She thinks that those involved in spying are either sent from Baku or are employees of the security service of SOCAR Georgia, Azerbaijan’s state energy company representation in the country.
According to her, the released photo and video materials, part of which was recorded by Mukhtarli himself before his detention, were handed over to the prosecutor’s office on August 7; however, the persons featured in the materials have not been identified so far.
Mustafayeva reiterated her calls on the Georgian law enforcement agencies to investigate Mukhtarli’s disappearance and spying on his family, and also focused on PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili’s statements in the aftermath of the journalist’s disappearance.
“In the first stage he [Kvirikashvili] made a lot of statements that they had nothing to do with this issue, but I am sure that he knew about it, about his [Mukhtarli’s] abduction. And he also has to respond to whatever his government has done to my husband,” Mustafayeva said at the press conference.
Archil Chopikashvili, Afgan Mukhtarli’s defense lawyer in Georgia, spoke at the press conference as well, saying that the frequent facts of illegal surveillance, as well as the reluctance of the prosecutor’s office to investigate the case, further intensifies the doubts that “a new crime” is being masterminded, and this time against Leyla Mustafayeva.
Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli went missing from Tbilisi on May 29. A day later he appeared in a detention facility in Baku arrested on charges of illegal border crossing, smuggling money and police disobedience.
Mukhtarli’s wife Leyla Mustafayeva and his friends claim that the investigative journalist known for reporting on the corruption of Azerbaijani authorities was abducted by Georgian law enforcers and handed to their Azerbaijani colleagues.
The investigation has been launched under Article 143 of the Criminal Code involving unlawful imprisonment.
Despite multiple demands, the Georgian government has failed to uncover the facts identified in the course of the investigation. The Georgian Interior Ministry and the prosecutor’s office claim that they still have not obtained Mukhtarli’s testimony and are waiting for the Azerbaijani government’s permit in this respect.
The President of Georgia, opposition parties, journalists, civil society organizations and international organizations also commented on the journalist’s disappearance and subsequent arrest in Azerbaijan, slamming the Government of Georgia for its handling of the investigation.
On June 15, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Mukhtarli’s case, condemning “the prosecution of Afgan Mukhtarli following bogus charges” and calling “on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against and release Afgan Mukhtarli.” The resolution also urges the Georgian authorities to ensure “a prompt, thorough, transparent and effective investigation into Afgan Mukhtarli’s forced disappearance in Georgia and illegal transfer to Azerbaijan.”
On June 27, President Giorgi Margvelashvili met with Afgan Mukhtarli’s wife, Leyla Mustafayeva, to get acquainted with recent developments on the matter, and promised to conduct constant monitoring over the case.