NEW YORK — Freedom House has issued a statement condemning violent attack on Azerbaijani journalist Ilgar Nasibov.

“The horrific physical assault on Ilgar Nasibov, a journalist, is the latest trauma in a rapidly and radically deteriorating human rights situation in Azerbaijan,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House.

“The Government of Azerbaijan seems determined to intimidate human rights activists and any critic of its actions, whether by arrest on false charges or beating, as has happened August 21 to Nasibov. President Ilham Aliyev is entirely wrong if he believes his government can go after its critics without consequences while the world’s attention is focused on other hot spots.”

“He and his government should be held responsible for the dangerous and hostile environment they are promoting,” Kramer said.

“The United States and the European Union should consider sanctions against officials who authorize and carry out these horrific abuses.”

Ilgar Nasibov was attacked late on August 21 while he was in the office of the Nakhichevan Resource Center, the only independent rights organization operating in the province.

Nasibov, who was found unconscious, suffered severe head trauma, a broken nose, fractured ribs, and serious blood loss.

ilgarnasibovA photograph of Nasibov after the attack shows his eyes swollen shut from the beating.

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic said that “this criminal act has an enormous chilling effect on free expression and free media” and she urged the Azerbaijani authorities to bring Nasibov’s attackers to justice.

International rights groups have been complaining about a crackdown by Azerbaijani authorities on rights activists.

Four of the leading activists in the country have been detained and charged with serious crimes in recent weeks.

Last week UN human rights experts have condemned the increased prosecution of human rights activists in Azerbaijan and urged Baku to “reverse the trend of repression.”

In a statement issued by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the experts said they are “appalled” by several incidents in which Azerbaijani officials use surveillance and interrogation to arrest and sentence rights activists “on the basis of trumped-up charges.”

They said the “criminalization of rights activists must stop” and that those who have been unjustly detained be “immediately freed,” including Leyla Yunus, Arif Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, and Intigam Aliyev.

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