The applicants, Rafig Nazir oglu Tagiyev and Samir Sadagat oglu Huseynov, are Azerbaijani nationals who were born in 1950 and 1975 respectively. Mr Tagiyev, now deceased, lived in Baku and was a well-known writer and columnist. Mr Huseynov lives in Lankaran (Azerbaijan) and used to work as editor-in-chief of Sanat Gazeti (Art Newspaper). The case concerns the applicants’ conviction for the publication of an article in November 2006 in Sanat Gazeti as part of a series written by Mr Tagiyev comparing Western and Eastern values. The article, entitled “Europe and us”, led to criticism by various Azerbaijani and Iranian religious figures and groups and to a religious fatwa calling for the applicants’ death.
Shortly after publication of the article, the applicants were prosecuted for inciting religious hatred and hostility. A district court ordered the applicants’ detention pending trial.
The investigator in charge of the case ordered a forensic linguistic and Islamic assessment of the article. The resulting report characterised certain remarks, in particular those concerning morality in Islam, the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims living in Europe and Eastern philosophers, as incitement to religious hatred and hostility.
Endorsing the conclusions of that report, the domestic courts found the applicants guilty as charged in May 2007 and sentenced them to three and four years’ imprisonment respectively. All their subsequent appeals were unsuccessful.
The applicants were released in December 2007 following a presidential pardon, having spent more than one year in detention.
Mr Tagiyev’s death in a stabbing outside his home in 2011 is part of a separate application which is pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
Relying in particular on Article 10 (freedom of expression), the applicants allege that their criminal conviction was unjustified and excessive.
Press release ECHR 402 (2019) 28.11.2019