BAKU - A prominent newspaper journalist from Azerbaijan has been arrested on suspicion of espionage after being deported from Turkey, his lawyer told AFP on Sunday. Rauf Mirkadyrov was detained in Baku, the capital of the ex-Soviet country, and is now being investigated for espionage, his lawyer Fuad Agayev said.
‘Today I got a call from an investigator in the serious crimes department of the Prosecutor-General's office, Ibrahim Lemberanski,’ he said. ‘He said that Mirkadyrov is accused of state treason. I asked what specific form of state treason and the investigator answered: 'espionage'‘. Azerbaijan, a tightly controlled oil-rich country, is criticised by rights organisations for attacks on free speech under its strongman President Ilham Aliyev, who have expressed concerns about recent assaults on journalists and punitive prosecutions in the state.
Mirkadyrov is the politics correspondent of the independent Russian-language newspaper Zerkalo, or Mirror, which is published in Azerbaijan. He was based in Ankara for the last few years while continuing to write for the paper. He published articles that were critical of both the Turkish and Azeri leadership. The journalist is being held in the detention centre of the national security ministry and cannot receive a lawyer's visit until Tuesday, Agayev added. Zerkalo newspaper said in a statement posted on its website that Turkey had cancelled Mirkadyrov's accreditation as a journalist and deported him after ordering him to leave the country.
It said the reason for Mirkadyrov's deportation was unclear and the newspaper had not received a response from the Turkish embassy in Azerbaijan. Mirkadyrov is ‘one of the country's best political analysts,’ it said, adding that his family remained in Turkey.