The arrests of the director and editor-in-chief of Abzas Media follow a series of reports on the wealth of those responsible.
Two journalists have been arrested in Azerbaijan, according to their lawyers, after their outlet recently published a series of articles on the wealth of senior government officials and the family of President Ilham Aliyev.
Sevinj Vagifgyzy, editor-in-chief of the private newspaper Abzas Media, was arrested and her home searched on Tuesday, her lawyer and Abzas Media said.
The day before, the police had also arrested Ulvi Hasanli, director of the same media, for “smuggling foreign currencies”.
Hasanli has pleaded not guilty to the charges, for which he faces 12 years in prison, his lawyer Zibeyda Sadygova said.
Abzas Media reported that Hasanli suffered “inhumane treatment” during his detention, including punching and kicking by police officers questioning him about his corruption investigations.
Meanwhile, police also raided the media outlet’s offices in Baku and expelled journalists who tried to document the search from outside, footage from Abvas Media showed.
Abzas Media is one of the few independent media outlets remaining in Azerbaijan after a nearly decade-long campaign against independent media and press rights groups, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
Natalia Nozadze, a South Caucasus researcher at rights group Amnesty International, said Hasanli’s arrest “parts a trend where critics are arrested by authorities to stifle their dissent.”
She said Hasanli “bravely exposed allegations of high-level corruption in Azerbaijan and covered critical issues of public interest” and that he had in the past “faced repeated harassment from the government” .
Signs of dissent are often met with a tough government response in Azerbaijan, an energy-rich country long ruled by the Aliyev dynasty.
In July, Azerbaijan arrested Gubad Ibadoghlu, a renowned political economist and civil activist, for various financial crimes, which he denied.
He said his prosecution was retaliation for exposing high-level corruption in Azerbaijan.
Amnesty International said Ibadoghlu had significant health problems and his life was in danger “due to dangerous prison conditions and denial of adequate health care.”
Aliyev’s government, which has ruled the country with an iron fist since 2003 after succeeding his father Heydar, has long faced international criticism over the country’s poor democratic record.