Javid Huseynov: Azeri footballer held over journalist death

Image source, 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

Police in Azerbaijan have arrested a footballer and five other people after a journalist who criticised the striker was murdered.

Javid Huseynov was detained alongside other suspects including his cousin over the death of Rasim Aliyev on Sunday.

The journalist had criticised Huseynov over a rude gesture at a Greek Cypriot journalist.

Aliyev was beaten up and later died of his injuries in hospital.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has condemned the attack, calling on the authorities to ensure journalists' safety and reverse what it calls the deteriorating media situation in Azerbaijan.

Huseynov and his cousin were arrested on suspicion of covering up a crime, officials said, while the others were arrested over the beating.

Aliyev died from internal bleeding. He was beaten up after being lured to a meeting by somebody who said they were a relative of Huseynov, local media reported.

The reporter had asked the footballer why he had waved a Turkish flag at the Cypriot team's fans after a Europa League qualifying tie between his club, Gabala FK, and Apollon Limassol..

In a Facebook post, Aliyev, who worked for the ann.az news website, accused Huseynov of being "immoral and ill-bred" for making the gesture.

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.

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.