Azerbaijan-Iran Tensions Continue, Iranian Journalist Arrested

BAKU - Anar Bayramli, reporter for Iranian Sahar TV channel has been arrested on drug possession charges on Feb. 17 in Azerbaijan. On Feb. 20, court sentenced Bayramli for two months of pre-trial detention.

According to the news reports, police has found 0.387 of heroin in Bayramli’s jacket. The journalist denies allegations and claims that police officers planted the drugs. According to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report, Binagady District Court sentenced Bayramli for two months. If convicted, he can be facing up to three years.

This is not the first case of journalist imprisonment in Azerbaijan. Within the last years a number of journalists, editors and bloggers have been arrested and served different detention terms. In its 2012 report Freedom House has ranked Azerbaijan ‘not free’ describing it as “the region’s most repressive regime.”

Bayramli’s case also occurs amidst increasing tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran. Azerbaijani authorities unveiled an allegedly Iran-backed terroristic group, which planned attacks on a number of Israeli officials. Soon after that, Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Azeri ambassador to hand him a protest note against Azerbaijan providing ground for Mossad agents.

Sahar TV, Iranian broadcast channel that employs Bayramli, has been repeatedly accused of spreading pro-Iranian propaganda by Azerbaijani authorities.