Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, who vanished from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on May 29, 2017 and resurfaced in custody in Baku the next day, has been released from prison.
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir welcomed the news on Twitter:
I welcome the release of Azerbaijani journalist Afghan #Mukhtarli, who was abducted from Tbilisi in 2017. I intervened many times on his behalf to #Azerbaijan authorities. He is on his way to Germany and will be able to reunite with his wife, Leyla Mustafayeva, and daughter.— OSCE media freedom (@OSCE_RFoM) March 17, 2020
Freelance investigative journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was reported missing by his wife in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on the evening of May 29, 2017.
The next morning, on May 30, regional media reported that Mukhtarli ended up in the custody of the Investigative Unit of the State Border Service of Azerbaijan.
Since then Georgia had been investigating the case as an "unlawful imprisonment” of the journalist, who had been charged with illegally crossing the border and contraband in Azerbaijan.
According to Amnesty International, Mukhtarli and his wife had gone into exile in Georgia in 2015 amid fears for their safety over his investigations into Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s alleged links to corruption.
In a resolution adopted by the European Parliament Georgia as state party to the European Convention on Human Rights is overall responsible to guarantee the safety of Azerbaijanis living on its territory and to prevent any forced return to their home country.
The resolution also called on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against and release Mukhtarli, as well as all those incarcerated as a result of the exercise of their fundamental rights, including freedom of expression.