Azerbaijan, Baku /corr. Trend K.Ramazanova / The US Department of State is concerned by the October 30 sentencing on terrorism charges of Eynulla Fatullayev, the editor-in-chief of independent newspaper Realny Azerbaijan, Department of State's official envoy, Tom Casey stated.
Azerbaijan's Court for Grave Crimes convicted Eynulla Fatullayev for libel, insult, incitement to ethnic hatred, threat of terrorism and tax evasion on 30 October.
"This sentence to eight and a half years in prison on charges of terrorism appears to be an attempt to silence criticism and stifle free speech," Casey said in his statement spread on 2 November by the Department of State on 2 November.
Casey stated that a free press and active civil society are fundamental elements of any democracy and are essential to the protection of citizens' basic rights. "Prosecuting Mr. Fatullayev under anti-terrorism laws indicates a fear of the fundamental freedom of speech that is sharply at odds with the Government of Azerbaijan's professed desire to develop democratic institutions. We call on the Government of Azerbaijan to respect fully the rights of a free press and to support the development of an independent media in Azerbaijan.
Fatullayev, detained since April 2007, is one of seven journalists currently imprisoned in Azerbaijan on defamation and other charges.