Independent journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was abducted by special services on 29 May 2017 in Tbilisi, Georgia, and secretly taken to Baku prison in Azerbaijan. On 12 January 2018 Azerbaijan`s Balakan District Court sentenced Afgan Mukhtarli to 6 years in prison for illegal border crossing, smuggling and violent resistance to public officials. On 18 September 2018, the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan upheld the District Court sentence.
A judge ruled Mukhtarli 's release on Tuesday 17 March and fled the country on the same day. He took a flight to Berlin, Germany, where his wife, journalist Leyla Mustafayeva, lives in exile. She and their daughter Nuray are being currently supported by ECPMF’s Journalists-in-Residence Programme (JiR).
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: "We welcome Mukhtarli's release and wish him and his family a happy and safe future in Germany. We recall on the Azerbaijan authorities to prosecute those involved in Mukhtarli’s abduction and unlawful imprisonment and to release all the media workers that remain in jail for simply doing their job".
Five other journalists are still behind bars for doing their job in Azerbaijan: Araz Guliyev, Elchin Ismayilli, Ikram Rahimov, Ziya Asadli, Polad Aslanov. There are currently 102 journalists in prison in Europe. The IFJ and EFJ call for their immediate release.