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Thursday, April 21, 2005


Huseinov investigators 'overlook leads'

From EurasiaNet:

The investigation into the murder of a leading opposition journalist in Azerbaijan is generating an increasing amount of skepticism in Baku. Family members of the slain journalist, Elmar Huseinov, say that authorities are denying them access to information concerning the case. Meanwhile, a local watchdog group claims that investigators are overlooking key witnesses.

Huseinov, the 38-year-old editor-in-chief of the pro-opposition Monitor magazine was shot and killed in the stairwell of his apartment building on March 2. One of Azerbaijan’s best known dissident journalists, Huseinov had frequently tangled with authorities, prompting some critics of President Ilham Aliyev’s administration to wonder whether the killing was politically motivated.

Six individuals, all taxi drivers working in Huseinov’s neighborhood, are believed to have been arrested by police in connection with the murder investigation. As of April 18, all but one, Tugay Bairamov, had been released, sources tell EurasiaNet. Bairamov’s lawyer, Namizad Safarov, reports that he has not been allowed to meet with his client. Under Azerbaijani law, suspects can only be held for 48 hours without being charged. Local media have also not been able to speak with any of the suspects since their release.

Government officials have repeatedly expressed an interest in cracking the case, yet, at the same time, they have often seemed reluctant to discuss the investigation. Some decisions concerning the investigation have generated controversy, especially a move on April 8 to designate the murder as an act of terrorism. That designation enabled the Ministry of National Security to take over the investigation.

Questions about the investigation’s scope also persist, according to Alevsat Aliyev, a member of the Public Investigation Group (PIG), a watchdog organization made up of former police officers, lawyers and media professionals. The six suspects who were arrested could only be used as witnesses, he said. At the same time, investigators have not yet questioned either police officers in the district where Huseinov’s murder occurred, or the editor’s friends and employees, he charged. "They have to question all these people. This is how an investigation should go," Aliyev said. "If they have no questions for them, it means one of two things: either they already know who killed [Huseinov] and [want to] keep it a secret, or they are not interested in the solution of the case."

Rushana Huseinova, the murdered journalist’s widow, has concerns about the investigation as well. "I call the Ministry of National Security every day. They say that they have no information for me, because I am in contact with the media," Huseinova told EurasiaNet. The last information Huseinova received from officials, she said, was the news that the case was being transferred to the Ministry of National Security. "That is all? I do not care if my husband’s case is considered as an issue of national security. I just want it to be solved."

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