Justice denied: Avaz Zeynalli receives 9-year sentence in politically charged case

Avaz Zeynalli, the founder and editor-in-chief of Xural TV and a long-time detainee, received a 9-year prison sentence on February 26, as pronounced by the Baku Grave Crimes Court.

Publication: 28.02.2024 - 16:58
Justice denied: Avaz Zeynalli receives 9-year sentence in politically charged case
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Zeynalli faces charges of bribery and unlawfully influencing the decisions of an official. Despite his conviction, he denies all charges, claiming his arrest and the subsequent legal action are politically motivated due to his journalism work, branding himself a political prisoner. Additionally, authorities confiscated 16,000 manats found in his home on the day of his arrest.

"I don't know 31 out of the 38 witnesses in this case. Neither do they know me, nor do I know them. How can someone who doesn't know me testify against me? Two of the witnesses are local government leaders, officials I should supposedly know. They've accused me of influencing their decisions. Can you believe that?" Zeynalli stated during his final statement in court, emphasizing the lack of valid evidence supporting the charges against him. He called for the case to be dismissed and for his acquittal.

Zeynalli further highlighted that the charges stem not from any crime but from his efforts to expose corruption in Azerbaijan and criticize officials. He mentioned that the 16,000 manats seized during the search of his home on the day of his arrest was a grant from the European Court of Human Rights, asserting that the court's decision aims to put his family in a difficult position.

Melahat Zeynalova, Zeynalli's wife, denounced the court's decision as illegal and unjust, stating plans to appeal: "Today, the Baku Grave Crimes Court trampled on the laws..."

Zeynalli's court hearings, broadcast live, reveal the political motives behind the case, underscoring the significance of public information and transparency. However, they also raise concerns about the political nature of the trial, illustrating how justice in Azerbaijan is influenced more by political factors than legal principles.

Numerous international organizations, including Journalists Without Borders, the U.S. Department of State, and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, have called for Zeynalli's immediate release.


Zeynalli was arrested on September 9, 2022, initially over allegations involving a 20,000 manats transaction with the wife of Rasim Mammadov, a former director of Baku Steel Company MMC who is currently imprisoned.

Mammadov was sentenced to 12 years for embezzling 180 million manats, fraud, and causing damage to state property. Further charges were later added against Zeynalli, who maintains his innocence and claims his arrest was politically motivated.

Zeynalli faces charges under several sections of the Criminal Code, including premeditated fraud, repeated bribery, bribery involving large sums, and bribery under aggravating circumstances.


Born on December 16, 1967, in Yerevan, Zeynalli graduated from the Law Department of Ankara University. During his studies in Turkey, he published the "Büyük Gelecek" (Big Future) magazine and interviewed many politicians, including Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel and Rauf Denktaş.

Upon returning to Azerbaijan in 1999, he worked as a writer for "Günaydın," "P.S.," and "Milletin Sesi" newspapers and was the chief editor of the Citizens' Solidarity newspaper. In 2002, he founded the "Khural" newspaper and served as its editor-in-chief. Xural.com operates as a news website, and Zeynalli hosts the "Political Arena" program on the "Xural TV" YouTube channel.

Zeynalli is known for proposing the idea of National Lovers' Day, advocating for the celebration of June 30, the wedding day of 1990, January 20 martyrs Ilham and Ferize, as Azerbaijan's Lovers' Day.

He is the author of the "Selcan'ın Memleketi" (Seljan's Homeland) prison diaries, written during his 2011–2014 incarceration, and translated Daniel Yergin's "The Prize" into Azerbaijani.

In 2011, Zeynalli was sentenced to 9 years in prison on charges of large-scale bribery, extortion, and tax evasion, allegedly under the political orders of Ramiz Mehdiyev, the head of the Presidential Administration. He was released in 2014 by a presidential pardon.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Zeynalli's rights under Articles 5 (right to liberty and security), 8 (respect for private and family life), and 10 (freedom of expression) were violated. Following the ruling, the Supreme Court acquitted Zeynalli and awarded him 13,000 euros in compensation for non-pecuniary damage.

Zeynalli's media outlet, Xural TV, has amassed a significant audience (255K subscribers), becoming a primary and broad platform for critics and shedding light on Azerbaijan's socio-economic, public-political, and legal issues daily.

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