Members of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), meeting at the Party Council in Ljubljana on June 3, “strongly condemned the abduction of independent journalist and human rights defender Afgan Mukhtarli, who had found refuge from persecution of the Azerbaijani government in Georgia, but was kidnapped from Tbilisi and brought to Azerbaijan on May 29.”
The ALDE Party reiterated its full support to Musavat, ALDE’s member party in Azerbaijan, as well as its leader Arif Hajili, “that operates under the most difficult circumstances and bravely fights against a harsh authoritarian system to uphold liberal values in one of Europe’s most oppressive regimes.”
The Free Democrats and the Republican Party, ALDE’s member parties in Georgia, voiced concerns in their joint address to the Party Council “over the role of Georgian authorities in this abduction from Georgian territory” and demanded prompt investigation.
Commenting on the statement, ALDE Party President MEP Hans van Baalen said: “European Liberals support their members in Georgia to demand full clarity over the circumstances of this kidnapping and continue to stand by Liberals in Azerbaijan and ask the European Union to exercise pressure upon the Azeri regime to immediately release Afgan Mukhtarli and other political prisoners.”
The Republican Party and the Free Democrats issued a joint statement on May 31 as well, saying the “strategic partnership [with Azerbaijan] cannot and should not be the reason and an excuse for violating the fundamental freedoms of any person concerned.”
“We are alarmed and deeply concerned by the developments concerning the Azerbaijani journalist and Turkish teacher, as we are witnessing either the high incompetence or the unlawful indifference by the Georgian officials, or deliberate actions that can only be assessed as systemic wrongdoing,” the statement reads.
The two parties called on the authorities to explain “how an Azerbaijani Journalist living in Tbilisi ended up in Baku without his passport and the ID,” and on the Prime Minister “to personally verify the allegations of Afgan Mukhtarli’s lawyer and his family, and if the involvement of the Georgian special forces are confirmed, implement relevant actions to dismiss and arrest those involved.”
The Republican Party (since 2007) and the Free Democrats (since 2012) are full members of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party, liberal-democratic political family in Europe.
The parties announced recently that they will run on a joint ticket for the upcoming municipal elections in October.