March 30, 2018 / 10:54 AM / 7 months ago

Gunman shoots exiled Azeri journalist in southern France

TOULOUSE, France (Reuters) - A gunman shot and gravely wounded an exiled Azeri journalist and killed his wife near the southern French city of Toulouse on Friday, in an incident the local mayor said appeared to be a settling of political scores.

Rahim Namazov was an outspoken critic of the Azeri political leadership and served time in prison before seeking exile in France in 2010.

In a video posted on YouTube in December that year, Namazov said he was jailed after writing stories about brutality against soldiers in units of the Azeri military. He said he had spent six months in solitary confinement.

“It’s the journalistic profession, the father of a family and the freedom of the press that has been attacked today,” Karine Michelet-Traval, the mayor of Colomiers where the shooting occurred, said in a statement.

In separate comments to La Depeche newspaper, she said: “You can’t help but think this was a settling of scores.”

Namazov’s wife was killed in the shooting. A police source said she had been shot in the head, apparently at close range. Witnesses spoke of hearing multiple gunshots, local media reported.

The local prosecutor is due to make a statement at 16h00 (1400 GMT).

Human Rights Watch said last year the Azeri government continued its crackdown on dissenting voices and that reports of torture persisted. It also said independent media outlets faced harassment and closure and critical journalists faced threats and intimidation aimed at silencing them.

Reporting by Johanna Decorse; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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