A group of thirteen leading civil society organizations released a joint statement on January 29, calling on the Georgian authorities to effectively investigate the case of Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, who went missing in Tbilisi on May 29, 2017, and appeared in a detention facility in Baku a day later.
“Eight months after the incident, the public still has no answers on the details and the results of the ongoing investigation, and there are serious questions on the effectiveness of the investigation,” the organizations said.
“The reported participation of government officials in the case has not been properly investigated yet,” reads the CSO statement, referring to the Azerbaijani journalist’s allegations that he was kidnapped by Georgian-speaking men in police uniforms.
The organizations also stressed that the absence of detailed explanations on the incident “further strengthens the doubts on possible political influence on the investigation,” and that conducting the investigation ineffectively would endanger “Georgia’s democratic image.”
The civil society organizations then urged the authorities to release video recordings from CCTV cameras located in Tbilisi, in the area Mukhtarli was reportedly kidnapped from, and from border crossing point with Azerbaijan, as well as to grant victim’s status to him and his wife to allow them access to case materials.
The CSOs also believe that the investigation, which has been launched under article 143 (Paragraph one) of the Criminal Code of Georgia, should be carried out under Paragraph 2, 3 and 4 of the same article (unlawful imprisonment in aggravating circumstances), as well as under article 154 (unlawful interference with journalistic activities). They also want to meet with the Chief Prosecutor to get updated on the course and results of investigation.
Afgan Mukhtarli, who was arrested on charges of illegal border crossing, smuggling money and police disobedience by Azerbaijani authorities, was sentenced to six years in prison on January 12. The United States and the European Union criticized the decision and called on the Azerbaijani government to release him immediately, and on the Georgian government to investigate his allegations.