Journalists: International Protection

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:01 pm on 9th January 2019.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 5:01 pm, 9th January 2019

I will keep my comments short. I only want to raise with the Minister the case of Mehman Huseynov, who, as I said earlier, is an Azerbaijani journalist, human rights activist and blogger who has been in prison for the so-called crime of slander since March 2017. As has been said, independent human rights organisations view Azerbaijan as one of the world’s most repressive countries, and its judicial system is not seen as independent of its powerful Executive. Azerbaijan is a part of Europe, and is not very far from here.

Further charges were levelled against Mr Huseynov in December and he is now on hunger strike in protest against them. The charges against him have been dubbed “bogus” by the Washington Post, and his case has also attracted support from the Assembly of the Council of Europe, Human Rights Watch and US Senator Marco Rubio.

Because of Mr Huseynov’s hunger strike, his health is deteriorating. The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights saw fit to make an intervention earlier this week, calling the Azerbaijani deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs to raise Mr Huseynov’s case. She told the deputy Minister that the charges against Mr Huseynov should be dropped because they lack credibility and underscored that the authorities are under an obligation to afford the necessary medical care to Mr Huseynov, whose condition is extremely worrying. She particularly asked the officials to transfer Mr Huseynov to a civilian hospital for medical care.

Mr Huseynov is a very young man. He was born in November 1992. His plight is particularly shocking when one thinks that he is basically in prison for simply exercising what we in this country would take as natural—the right of free speech.