Monday, July 09, 2007

The Persecution of RafiqTagi Continues

Azerbaijani journalist Rafiq Tagi was sentenced in May to 3 years in prison because he wrote an article critical of Islam's impact on his country's development. His editor, Samir Sadaqatoglu, received a 4 year sentence. On Friday, an Azerbaijani appeals court upheld the verdicts. The Committee to Protect Journalists has some background:

Tagi and Sadagotoglu received death threats from Islamic hard-liners in Azerbaijan and neighboring Iran. Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani, one of Iran’s most senior clerics, issued a fatwa in November 2006, calling for the deaths of the two journalists, the BBC reported. Islamic radicals also attended the journalists’ trial in April and May. On April 26, a group of 40 activists openly threatened Tagi and Sadagatoglu and harassed several other journalists covering the trial, the Moscow-based media watchdog Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported.

Rasul Safarov, the presiding judge in the Court of Appeals, issued Friday’s decision to uphold the trial court verdict. The defendants were not in court on Friday; details of the appellate ruling were not immediately available.

“Rafiq Tagi and Samir Sadagatoglu have already spent eight months in prison simply for expressing an opinion,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “While we recognize some readers may have been offended by that opinion, there is no justification for jailing journalists for what they publish or threatening them with death. We call on Azerbaijani authorities to overturn this conviction and free both journalists immediately.”

The Tagi case is just one example of the brutal censorship and repression confronting Muslim dissidents and reformers. It would make a huge difference if just half the time and effort spent defending the rights of imprisoned terrorists could be dedicated to helping the victims of Islamist persecution. If those of us in the West won't stand with the Tagis and Sadaqatoglus of this world, then who will?


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