Police detained writer Akram Aylisli for 11 hours at Baku’s Heydar Aliyev Airport, preventing him from traveling to a literary festival in Venice, Italy at which he was scheduled to appear, reported Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty on 30 March 2016.
Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Interior reported that Aylisli was held in connection with a “conflict” he had “stirred” with border control staff, reported Azerbaijani news site Contact on 30 March 2016.
The writer’s son Najaf Naibov told Contact that he didn’t know the details of the investigation, but that there was no conflict between his father and the border police.
** UPDATE: Aylisli later released the following statement on the alleged incident, which appeared in The Guardian on 4 April 2016:
My bags, which had already been checked in, were taken off the plane and searched. At around 9.30am I was transferred into the custody of airport police and falsely accused of creating a public disturbance, hindering the work of border guards and harassing other passengers. I was held in police custody for over 10 hours and interrogated.
Later in the evening, the head of shift of the border service, an athletically built young man, made a new absurd accusation that I, a 78-year-old writer in poor health and suffering from a heart condition, punched him in the chest with such great strength that it caused a hematoma. This supposedly happened in a small room with no surveillance cameras during a personal search … Absurdly and illogically, this alleged incident of punching a border guard happened well after the plane departed and was later used by the border service as an explanation for denying the border crossing before the plane had left.
The writer was set to speak at Venice’s Incroci di Civiltà festival on 31 March 2016.
Harassment of Aylisi began in late 2012 upon the publication of his controversial novel ‘Stone Dreams’, which tells the story of ethnic conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia during the closing years of the Soviet Union. The novel portrays Armenians in a sympathetic light, thus drawing ire from various groups in his native country.
Aylisli was stripped of his pension and honorary titles, expelled from the Union of Azerbaijani Writers, had his writings removed from school curricula and his books burned, and received death threats.
» The Guardian – 4 April 2016:
Author Akram Aylisli responds to ‘hooliganism’ charge after airport detention
» Contact – 30 March 2016:
Akram Aylisli released after several hours of interrogation
» Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty – 30 March 2016:
Prominent Azerbaijani writer detained, prevented from traveling abroad
» Armenpress – 30 March 2016:
Writer Akram Aylisli detained by police at Heydar Aliyev airport
» The Guardian – 30 March 2016:
Azerbaijan detains writer Akram Aylisli at airport on way to festival
» Artsfreedom.org – 18 February 2013:
Azerbaijan: Writer Akram Aylisli under threat