• Prominent Azerbaijani activist kidnapped, tortured

Plainclothes attackers have abducted and tortured a prominent Azerbaijani opposition blogger and whistle-blower, the latest incident of the harsh treatment of activists and rights campaigners in the oil-rich ex-Soviet country.

Mehman Huseynov, who serves as the chairman of the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS), a prominent media rights NGO in Azerbaijan, said on Wednesday that unidentified people had abducted him two days earlier when he was leaving a café in the capital, Baku.

"They taped up my mouth, put a sack on my head, used an electric shocker on me and pushed me into a car," said Huseynov, adding that the attackers held him for several hours before handing him into police custody.

Huseynov, who is known for his investigative online blogging, said he was taken to a Baku police station after the attackers held him blindfolded and gagged for about three hours in an unknown location. The rights campaigner said he lost his consciousness during the police custody and was finally induced to sign a statement, something he declined to do.

"They thought I would break down and beg for forgiveness for the work that I do," said Huseynov, adding that he was fined 200 manat ($111) after a court on Tuesday charged him with resisting police orders after allegedly verbally abusing a passerby. The activist said he would not pay the fine.

The IRFS condemned the attack in a statement on Wednesday and said that it seemed to have been ordered by top officials in the "Azerbaijani ruling establishment." The statement added that such incidents come amid a climate of "complete impunity" in Azerbaijan, calling on officials to allow Huseynov to leave the country to receive proper medical treatment.

Huseynov, 26, has faced prosecution over the past years for video blogs exposing corruption among lawmakers and officials.

SS

Jan 11, 2017 17:16 UTC
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