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Lawyer: Mukhtarli Given Victim Status, Charges Specified

Afghan Mukhtarli, Azerbaijani journalist abducted in Tbilisi and passed to Baku authorities four years ago, has been given victim status by the Georgian prosecution as part of criminal investigations, said Rights Georgia, a Georgian CSO representing Mukhtarli along with the Human Rights House Tbilisi.

According to the CSO, the prosecution also specified charges in the abduction case. The probe, initially led in Georgia under Article 143-1 of the Criminal Code involving unlawful imprisonment, has been reclassified to the same act committed “with a prior agreement by a group of persons” under Article 143-3(a) of the CC.

The decision of prosecution authorities was reportedly preceded by the questioning of the journalist at the Prosecutor’s office on April 9 and an investigative experiment at the crime scene conducted on April 15.

However, Archil Chopikashvili, Mukhtarli’s lawyer, says the charges need further specification to also include other paragraphs under Article 143, since the victim has been subjected to “unlawful imprisonment committed by taking the victim abroad, with a prior agreement by a group of persons, using violence dangerous for health, resulting in grave consequences” for the victim.

According to Chopikashvili, charges under Article 154-2 of the Criminal Code, involving “unlawful interference with the journalist’s professional activities using violence or official position,” also need to be added to the case.

Mukhtarli, an outspoken critic of the Azerbaijani Government, went missing from Tbilisi on May 29, 2017, only to resurface a day later in Baku custody. Amnesty International  reported  that the Azerbaijani journalist was “at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.” The journalist was sentenced to six years in prison in January 2018 on charges of illegal border crossing, smuggling money, and police disobedience. He was released from Azerbaijani prison in March 2020.

Rights Georgia says the journalist arrived in Tbilisi from Germany on April 7 for the first time since his abduction to reaffirm his readiness to cooperate with the prosecution, giving way to the renewed investigative actions.

During his visit, Mukhtarli said Georgian Dream founder Bidzina Ivanishvili and then-Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili had prior knowledge of his abduction “ordered” by Baku, and kidnappers wore badges of the Georgian Criminal Police. Former PM Kvirikashvili denied the allegation as “absurd” and “absolutely groundless” afterward. The journalist then also claimed Tbilisi took a bribe of USD 3 million from Azerbaijan for handing him over, citing an Azerbaijani government insider source.

Mukhtarli’s abduction, as well as the failure on part of Georgian authorities to conduct proper investigations, have been widely condemned by local and international human rights watchdogs. The case has been sent to the European Court of Human Rights.

Civil.Ge contacted the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia to confirm the report, but the agency refrained from responding so far. 

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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