Fate of Afgan Mukhtarli’s Case in Georgian Society’s Hands
2017 June 08 ( Thursday ) 13:39:18
The Azerbaijani investigative journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was kidnapped in Tbilisi on May 29 and transferred to Baku. He proclaimed that he had been abducted by the Georgian police. This event caused a great scandal. There is an investigation, the public is protesting. The government of Georgia is in turmoil. This was in an interview of Turan IA with the wife of the abducted journalist Leila Mustafayeva, which was received via Skype.
Leila expressed dissatisfaction with the investigation: "Neither I, nor the lawyer, nor the public at large have information about the course of the investigation. The case is led by the police, although Afgan said he was abducted by persons in police uniforms. The lawyer petitioned that the case should be conducted by the prosecutor's office, but it keeps silent".
Q: Why do Georgian officials make contradictory statements from the very beginning of the incident?
A: Firstly, it should be noted that the first information about Afgan came from Baku and only after that there were statements in Tbilisi that repeated the official version of the Azerbaijani side that he was not a journalist but was a bodyguard and an activist. This shows there is agreement between the sides about Afgan.
Q: As it can be seen from Baku, there is a confrontation between the administration of the Georgian President and the government over the incident. The President insists on an early investigation and disclosure of the facts of the incident, and the government drags the process, limiting itself to diplomatic phrases.
A: Yes, the President actually said that Georgia's reputation has suffered serious damage, while the government is wagging. This shows that the agreement on this case took place between the Georgian government and official Baku, and especially between law enforcement agencies. The view of Georgian civil society on the event is the same.
Q: You were offered Georgian citizenship. Why did they make you such an offer and why did you refuse?
A: This was done with the aim of "hushing up" the case, weakening public and international pressure. The Georgian government did not expect such a tough reaction. They did this to restore the wounded image of the country, to divert public attention and silence me. Frankly, last year I applied for temporary accommodation, but I was refused, noting that I was engaged in activities that were contrary to Georgia's national interests. All this shows that the authorities are in a state of anxiety and all is dictated by this fact.
Q: According to available information, last year you applied for admission to Germany.
A: Yes, I had to leave for 6 months for activities within the framework of one program. But we were not given a visa. And the organizations that dealt with this issue could not get a visa for us.
Leila negatively answered the question whether there was any attempt of the Azerbaijani government to contact her.
Q: You said earlier that you did not expect such a strong support of the Georgian society. Why is there such a level of solidarity and adherence to principles?
A: It is because of concern. It is said here that the sack put on Afgan"s head can be put on everyone else"s head, if they remain silent. This country went towards Europe painfully, step by step, for years and such a case caused concern of the society. It is also solidarity with the investigative journalist and his family.
Q: What is the reason for the arrest?
A: There are a few reasons. Afgan was forced to come to Georgia, hiding from persecution. This is an investigation of the Aliyev business in Georgia. And after the publication of these investigations, they began to follow him. The second one is his active position on Facebook, where he criticized the Azerbaijani-Georgian relations, noting that Georgia concedes to democracy in exchange for economic interests and oil. In addition, the flow of those persecuted for political reasons from Azerbaijan to Georgia has recently increased. Protests began to be held here. The government of Azerbaijan did not like this. And the purpose of abducting Afgan was to stop his activities in Georgia.
So can we say both official parties were interested in Afgan's neutralization?
Both sides were interested in his extradition to Azerbaijan. Moreover, the Azerbaijani side demanded his extradition. And he was abducted as a result of a special operation and brought to Baku. Georgia did not want to spoil relations with Azerbaijan because of the activities of Azerbaijani oppositionists on its territory. Georgia could not directly say: "Go away," because of the importance of its relations with the West.
Today Georgia is in the worst situation. The government did not expect such a response from the society and the international community. And if there was not such a response, then subsequent transfers of a number of people from Georgia to the Azerbaijani side would follow.
Q: What consequences could come from this event for you, Georgia and for the Azerbaijani-Georgian relations?
A: Relations between the governments will develop in the same way. Here the main question is how relations with Europe will be built. They will not be the same. In this issue, the position of Western institutions is fundamental.
On the question whether the Georgian society will stand until the end, Leila answered that the solution of this issue is in the hands of the Georgian civil society, which is not going to compromise with the government.
Q: So, the key to the problem is in the hands of the Georgian society?
A: Yes, and it also depends on the pressure of the Western community.