Human rights monitors are calling for a thorough investigation into the death of renowned writer and journalist Rafiq Tagi.
Mr. Tagi died in a hospital in Baku, Azerbaijan on November 23, four days after he was repeatedly stabbed on the street by an unknown assailant. After receiving treatment, his recovery was such that the hospital moved him out of the emergency ward, and he was able to grant an interview to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. During the interview he expressed the opinion he was attacked because of a column he had recently published critical of the Iranian regime and its human rights violations. He died unexpectedly one hour later.
The press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders has urged Azerbaijani authorities “to seriously consider the possibility that the attack [on Mr. Tagi] was linked to his work as a journalist.” Amnesty International welcomed the criminal investigation into Mr. Tagi’s death in Azerbaijan and also called on “Iranian authorities to provide all necessary cooperation to the Azerbaijani authorities during the investigation.”
Mr. Tagi was no stranger to persecution on account of his writing. His 2006 article, critical of political Islam, prompted an Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani, to issue a fatwa against Mr. Tagi, calling for his death. Ayatollah Lankarani has since published a statement welcoming the demise of Mr. Tagi, referring to it as “a just sentence.”
In fact, the attack on Mr. Tagi is an outrage and an affront to every person who respects human life and human rights.
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says, journalists through their work help to advance human dignity, liberty and prosperity:
“By exposing abuses of power, challenging assumptions, and providing constructive outlets for new ideas and for dissent, journalists safeguard our freedoms. When a free media is in jeopardy, all other human rights are threatened.”
We welcome the Azerbaijani government’s formation of a special working group to investigate the attack on Rafiq Tagi. It is imperative that the investigation into his death bring those responsible to account. Justice and respect for the life of a brave journalist demand no less.