BAKU (Reuters) - An Azeri court on Monday released the director of an independent news agency from pre-trial detention but said an investigation of him can continue, in a case condemned by human rights activists.
Mehman Aliyev, the head of Turan news agency, was detained by Azeri police in the capital, Baku, on Aug. 24, on suspicion of tax evasion and illegal business activities. Investigation of those allegations will continue
Turan suspended its operations from Sept. 1.
“I‘m not under arrest anymore. I consider this decision as positive ... I‘m glad that mistake has been amended,” Aliyev told Reuters by telephone after his release.
Azeri officials said Aliyev’s release was a demonstration of the president’s attitude to journalists.
“His release is a proof of President (Ilham) Aliyev’s special attitude to journalists and mass media,” said Aflatun Amashov, the head of Azerbaijan’s Press Union.
The West has criticized Azerbaijan for what it calls intimidation and repression aimed at the opposition and urged Baku to comply with its pledges on human rights. Azeri officials deny the accusations.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as well as opposition parties in Azerbaijan and human rights activists had been calling for Aliyev’s immediate release.
Reporting by Nailia Bagirova; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Larry King