Europe

Azerbaijan journalist dies after beating by football fans

Javid Huseynov plays for Azerbaijan against Germany in a 2009 qualifier for the 2010 World Cup. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Javid Huseynov of Gabala FK - seen here playing for Azerbaijan in 2009 - waved a Turkish flag at fans of Greek Cypriot team Apollon Limassol

A journalist in Azerbaijan who criticised a popular footballer has died after an attack by supporters.

Rasim Aliyev had said on Facebook that Javid Huseynov should be banned from European football for allegedly making a rude gesture at a Cypriot journalist.

The reporter asked why he had waved a Turkish flag at a Cypriot team's fans.

Mr Aliyev was then beaten up after being lured to a meeting by somebody who said they were a relative of the player, local media report.

He later died from internal bleeding.

In his Facebook post, Mr Aliyev, who worked for the ann.az news website, accused Mr Huseynov of being "immoral and ill-bred" for making the gesture after a Europa League qualifying tie between his club, Gabala FK, and Apollon Limassol.

Turan news agency reported that a cousin of Mr Huseynov had been detained, but Azeri security services could not confirm this to the BBC.

Azerbaijan's President, Ilham Aliyev, said he was "seriously concerned" by the incident, calling it a "threat to freedom of speech", according to Baku-based APA news agency.

'Sorrow'

Meanwhile, the Gabala club issued a statement saying that Mr Huseynov had been suspended from the team.

Saying that it was "shocked" by the journalist's death, the club said nobody had the "right to threaten anyone or use violence".

"The mention of the club footballer Huseynov's name in this incident has caused deep sorrow," the statement said.

"Despite the fact that Huseynov is a very important player for the Gabala team, he has been suspended from the first team until this issue is clarified."

The head of Azerbaijan's Press Council, Aflatun Amasov, said that Mr Aliyev's death "must not be politicised".

"The investigation is not finished yet," APA quoted Mr Amasov as saying.

"Therefore, it is not right to explain the incident from the point of view of freedom of speech and the media."

He added that the Press Council was also "concerned" about unethical postings on social networking websites.

Freedom of expression is a thorny issue in Azerbaijan, with the country rated 162nd out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

Freedom House says the Azeri authorities imprison journalists and bloggers who express dissenting opinions, while violence against journalists continues with impunity.

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