Friday, September 11

Aliyev is suing French channel for calling him a despot

But President Aliyev is forgetting that France isn't Azerbaijan and while in Azerbaijan he can hire and buy out a whole court and prosecutor office to do as he pleases, things don't work the same way in France.

Last week, French TV aired an investigative piece (to me also work of art) about President Aliyev, his by now mastered caviar diplomacy, the country's corruption levels and poor rights record. Cash Investigation- the brain behind the show and its host, French journalist Elise Lucet was able to attend the opening gala of a photo exhibition ironically titled "Azerbaijan- the land of tolerance". Not only Lucet was able to attend the opening but she also was able to ask few questions to Mehriban Aliyev who was there (of course how could she not!) as the head of Heydar Aliyev Foundation who also happened to be the chief sponsor of the event.

Here is brief conversation:

Elise Lucet: Is your country really a land of tolerance?
Mehriban Aliyeva: Land of tolerance? Of course, it is. 
Elise Lucet: Because you have many political prisoners in jail right now in Azerbaijan.
Mehriban Aliyeva: It is not true. Just get correct information.
Elise Lucet: Do you know Leyla Yunus [repeats the question twice] or Khadija Ismayilova? They are in jail! They have been sentenced from 7.5 to 8.5 years in jail.

Needles to say, Lucet shortly after [like within seconds] was kicked all the way to the back of the crowd because security [of course] didnt like the questions. Even if Lucet tried explaining to the security that she is French journalist and that this was France the security was quick to say "This was not a press conference". He then asked her to "Please be silent [repeating it a few times] Be quiet!"

Anyhow, you can watch the whole show, and you are in luck especially if you are French speaker.

Turns out, the ruling family was unhappy about this encounter and the show so they hired Olivier Pardo to represent Azerbaijan. Padro turns to be the right person for the job. He already said the program while accusing Azerbaijan of being "strictest dictatorship" failed to present evidence. Looks like Padro also missed the whole episode or maybe didn't listen to the facts in the show. But then it is not surprising, because Padro also represented Equatorial Guinea in France in a case known as "ill-gotten gains" when anti-corruption NGOs managed to launch an investigation into the cases of three African leaders' names mentioned in large- scale fraud. Representing that case, Pardo said, "the case of the "ill-gotten gains" violated international law and that he would contest the case and pursue France through the international courts".  

Sadly that investigation didn't lead to concrete results as French Court stopped short of making a ruling saying an NGO Transparency International "could not itself bring a complaint against three African heads of state". 

Pardo's list of clients is full of "murky" figures. He also represented Imad Lahoud, computer specialist whose name popped up in an corruption investigation in France; Carlos Vejarano, the manager of the Arros Island in Seychelles, and used as tax heaven- and these are just a few based on a short google search.

So Pardo has a record of representing a certain kind of clients so it should come as no surprise he also took on the case of Aliyevs, who also fall perfectly well into this category. 

The question now is will this case actually receive any attention in France? So far French TV channel has not responded and many see this as a "warning". But warning to whom? To all international investigative organizations and independent television? 

Aliyev must really have forgotten what independent journalism is having silenced his own journalists...

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