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Azerbaijani newspaper editor accused of spying for Iran

5th July 2012 | 1.654 Views
Baku, Azerbaijan (ANTARA News) - The chief editor of an Azerbaijani newspaper has been arrested over accusations of collaboration with Iranian intelligence personnel against Azerbaijan, authorities said Wednesday.

The Prosecutor General's Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs identified the suspect as Hilal Mammadov, chief editor of Tolishi Sado, or the Voice of Talysh, a Baku-based Talysh ethnic minority newspaper.

Mammadov has spied for Iran and his actions harmed the sovereignty, national security and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, the authorities said in a statement.

The editor was detained on June 21 on suspicions of jeopardizing state security and territorial integrity, fanning nationalist, religious and racial hatred and hostility and engaging in drug-trafficking.

Police said they had found more than 33 kilograms of heroin in Mammadov's house during his detention.

The following investigation found that Mammadov had cooperated with Iranian intelligence agency Abdoli Ali Hamzali since 1992, according to the statement.

Mammadov's relatives say he has never used drugs and that they believe the arrest was politically motivated.

Mammadov's predecessor in the newspaper, Novruzali Mammadov, who was also a Talysh minority activist, had been convicted of similar charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison before he died in prison in 2009.

The Talysh are a minority living mainly in the border area between Azerbaijan and Iran. Official figures show there are about 112,000 Talysh people in Azerbaijan and almost 100,000 in Iran.