Georgian Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili said at a press conference on July 5 that he has appealed to the chief prosecutor’s office over the case of Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, who went missing on May 29 from Tbilisi and appeared in a detention facility in Baku a day later.
Nanuashvili expressed regret over the fact that Mukhtarli’s case is being investigated by the Interior Ministry, whose employees are suspected of the journalist’s alleged abduction and transfer to the Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies.
Speaking at the press conference, the Georgian Public Defender stressed the need for “independent and impartial investigation” and urged the Chief Prosecutor to transfer the case to the investigators of the prosecutor’s office.
Nanuashvili also emphasized that the Azerbaijani journalist’s lawyer has failed to get hold of the case files on the ongoing investigation, since Afgan Mukhtarli does note enjoy the status of a victim granting such right under the Georgian legislation. In his official letter, the Public Defender also calls for granting the status to Mukhtarli.
“The Public Defender has made a number of public comments on this issue in the media, but since the situation remains unchanged, he decided to apply to the prosecutor’s office in writing,” the statement released by the Public Defender’s Office reads.
The Public Defender also noted that he “closely follows” the developments around the case, among them the media reports, according to which video recordings from CCTV cameras have been either doctored or removed.
Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli went missing from Tbilisi on May 29. A day later he appeared in a detention facility in Baku after being arrested on charges of illegal border crossing, smuggling money and police disobedience.
Mukhtarli’s wife Leyla Mustafayeva and his friends claim that the investigative journalist known for reporting on the corruption of Azerbaijani authorities was abducted by Georgian law enforcers.
The investigation has been launched by the Ministry of Internal Affairs under Article 143 of the Criminal Code on unlawful imprisonment.
Despite multiple demands, the Georgian government has yet to uncover the facts identified in the course of the investigation. The Georgian Interior Ministry and the prosecutor’s office claim that they still have not obtained Mukhtarli’s testimony and are waiting for the Azerbaijani government’s permit in this respect.
The President of Georgia, opposition parties, journalists, civil society organizations and international organizations also commented on the journalist’s disappearance and subsequent arrest in Azerbaijan, slamming the Government of Georgia for its handling of the investigation.
On June 15, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Mukhtarli’s case, condemning “the prosecution of Afgan Mukhtarli following bogus charges” and calling “on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against and release Afgan Mukhtarli.” The resolution also urges the Georgian authorities to ensure “a prompt, thorough, transparent and effective investigation into Afgan Mukhtarli’s forced disappearance in Georgia and illegal transfer to Azerbaijan.”
On June 27, President Giorgi Margvelashvili met with Afgan Mukhtarli’s wife, Leyla Mustafayeva, to get acquainted with recent developments on the matter, and promised to conduct constant monitoring over the case.